Posts tagged as:

Chevron

Liability roundup

by Walter Olson on November 14, 2014

  • Kip Viscusi: current structure of tort law gives firms like General Motors reason not to investigate risks/benefits of their designs [Alison Frankel, Reuters]
  • California woman in trouble after allegedly sending “faked treatment documents and burn photos from a hospital website” to bolster hot coffee spill claim against McDonald’s [ABA Journal]
  • Despite Kumho Tire, Joiner, and amendments to evidence rules in 2000, Eighth Circuit cuts its own liberal path on expert witness admissibility [Bernstein]
  • “In the BP case, the rule of law is on trial” [Lester Brickman, The Hill, on cert petition]
  • “Fighting and Winning Against Pit Bull Defense Lawyers” [Ronald Miller]
  • Business groups savor victory in racketeering suit over concocted asbestos claims [Barrett, Bloomberg Business Week]
  • Peter Spiro adds another favorable review of Paul Barrett’s Chevron/ Ecuador book Law of the Jungle [Opinio Juris]

{ 1 comment }

Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on October 8, 2014

{ 1 comment }

Roger Parloff at Fortune reviews the two new Chevron-Ecuador books by Paul Barrett and Michael Goldhaber (earlier here, etc.), and also asks where ubiquitous S.D.N.Y. federal prosecutor Preet Bharara is in a case where he might appropriately take an interest. Meanwhile, Paul Barrett recounts being on the receiving end of a P.R. campaign to tear down his book, and an excerpt from his book recounts the fall of celebrated law firm Patton Boggs after it was tripped up in the dispute; and actress Mia Farrow reveals at least one way in which she might be thought to resemble former education secretary Bill Bennett.

Via p.r. agent Karen Hinton, William Langewiesche has now responded in our comments section (as well as elsewhere) to Glenn Garvin’s critical Miami Herald column (linked here) regarding Langewiesche’s 2007 Vanity Fair piece on the Chevron-Ecuador litigation. Garvin has in turn contributed a rejoinder.

The George Mason law professor favorably reviews one of the two new books on the case, Michael Goldhaber’s Crude Awakening. After Prof. Krauss wrote on the litigation in March, he says, the government of Ecuador unsuccessfully tried to pressure Forbes to retract the piece. Earlier (Glenn Garvin on the William Langewiesche Vanity Fair piece), generally, and related (takedown attempts).

{ 1 comment }

“If you say anything remotely critical about the Ecuadorian government, you may face a copyright takedown,” wrote Maira Sutton at EFF in May. A Spanish firm that represents the government of Ecuador, Ares Rights, has sent out many such takedown demands, related to media accounts of surveillance, corruption, and the country’s Lago Agrio legal dispute with Chevron. More recently, following growing scrutiny of its own activities, Ares Rights has aimed takedown demands citing supposed copyright infringement against its own critics, including Adam Steinbaugh. Details: Mike Masnick, TechDirt; Ken at Popehat. It has also represented the government of Argentina.

{ 1 comment }

I’ve expressed skepticism before about William Langewiesche’s 12,600-word 2007 article in Vanity Fair on the Chevron-Ecuador dispute, which took a line relentlessly sympathetic to the case of plaintiff’s lawyer Steven Donziger. (As readers of this site know, Donziger has spent the past few years fighting off allegations as to the means by which he obtained an $18 billion judgment against Chevron; one federal judge has found “clear and convincing evidence” that the judgment was “obtained by corrupt means.”) I’m also pretty familiar with the ways trial lawyers use journalists to go after the companies they’re suing, having written on that topic many times before.

Still, like many others, I was floored by Glenn Garvin’s new column in the Miami Herald based on emails introduced into evidence in the endless litigation. Even knowing how writers habitually butter up key sources, I wouldn’t have expected Langewiesche to assure Donziger that “You and I are now firmly on the same side” and that writing the article had been “particularly satisfying to the extent that it supports your efforts, and you personally.” Nor would I have expected Langewiesche to have sent Donziger a copy of his article weeks before it was published, or for Vanity Fair’s editors to have allowed him to do this on a highly contentious topic of public controversy, assuming they knew.

The emails go on and on, as Garvin summarizes them, depicting

Langewiesche as Donziger’s camp follower at the best of times, his sock-puppet at the worst.

The reporter asks Donziger to prepare lists of dozens of questions to be asked of Chevron. And he begs Donziger to help him prepare arguments about why there’s no need for him to do face-to-face interviews with Chevron officials, as they’ve requested, even though he spent days meeting with Donziger and his legal staff.

“I want to avoid a meeting, simply because I do NOT have the time. But I don’t want to go on record refusing a meeting,” writes Langewiesche. “Perhaps I could say that my travel schedule is intense . . . ” He not only submits his emails to Chevron for Donziger’s approval (“What say, Steve. I gotta send this tonight”) and even lets him rewrite them.

In short, Vanity Fair, which positions itself as the glossiest of high-toned journalistic outlets, got played like a cheap ukulele. And I didn’t know this either, which I’ll quote Garvin on, parentheses and all: “(Department of Extraordinary Coincidences: Donziger’s wife at the time worked in corporate communications at Condé Nast, the magazine’s publisher.)”

By coincidence, I’m part way through an advance copy of the interesting new book by Paul Barrett of Business Week on the Chevron-Donziger-Ecuador mess, titled Law of the Jungle. Not to give away anything, but it fills in many areas of background that were new to me about this incredible (still-in-progress, attempted) legal heist (links to Barrett’s earlier coverage here). There’s also a new mini-book by Michael Goldhaber entitled Crude Awakening: Chevron in Ecuador, unseen by me.

P.S. Bonus Vanity Fair connection: journalist Kurt Eichenwald, whose trial-lawyer-assisted role in the Texaco Tapes affair left such a bad impression, has for some time been ensconced as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

{ 5 comments }

Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on June 18, 2014

  • Coming to other towns soon: new stormwater regs ban car wash fundraisers at schools in Arlington, Va. [ArlNow]
  • Krugman hides the ball on coal-fired utility regs [David Henderson]
  • Coming in September: book on Chevron/Ecuador case by Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Paul M. Barrett [Business Roundtable]
  • Simplified narrative of “business versus environmental regulation” obscures so much [Tim Carney, Washington Examiner]
  • Environmental disclosure panel from Vermont Law School “Disclosure Debates” [video, summary by Caitlin Stanton for VLR's Environmental Health, links to all videos, background]
  • California: “Attorney General Posts 2013 Proposition 65 Settlement Numbers” [Cal Biz Lit]
  • “Silent Spring at 50: The False Crises of Rachel Carson” [Cato panel with Andrew Morriss, Richard Tren]

{ 3 comments }

Ethics roundup

by Walter Olson on May 13, 2014

  • If you doubt lawyers can be heroes, consider Rashid Rehman, gunned down after defying death threats to represent university lecturer in Pakistan blasphemy case [BBC]
  • Some asbestos lawyers may have reason to be nervous as Garlock documents pave way for fraud-checking [Daniel Fisher/Forbes, Legal NewsLine, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle] Given consumer groups’ zeal for making litigation data public, they’ll support greater transparency in asbestos settlements, right? [WLF]
  • “Colloquium: The Legal Profession’s Monopoly on the Practice of Law” with John McGinnis and Russell Pearce, Benjamin Barton and others [Fordham Law Review]
  • “BP’s Billions Draw Scam Artists” [Amanda Bronstad, NLJ; NYTimes ("They told us we don't even need a lawyer"); Insurance Journal]
  • “South Carolina: LegalZoom is not the Unauthorized Practice of Law” [Legal Ethics Forum]
  • Black lung series with legal ethics angle wins Pulitzer [Chris Hamby/Center for Public Integrity, earlier]
  • Much more to come in Chevron saga as oil company seeks $32 million in attorneys’ fees from adversary Donziger [Roger Parloff] Ted Boutrous, who repped both defendants, on parallels between Chevron and Dole scandals [USA Today]

{ 1 comment }

The large law firm, which is also Washington, D.C.’s biggest lobbying firm, will pay $15 million, express regret and withdraw from representing Ecuadorian environmental complainants to settle the oil company’s charges that it had participated in a litigation scheme that Chevron has called fraudulent and extortionate. “It also agreed to assist Chevron with discovery against the Ecuadoran plaintiffs and their New York-based lawyer, Steven Donziger,” as well as hand over its five percent share of any moneys the plaintiffs happen to win when the whole thing is over. [Washington Post; Paul Barrett, Bloomberg Business Week; our coverage of the case over years]

{ 15 comments }

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on March 12, 2014

  • Environmental advocates and their fans in the press come off badly in Chevron/Ecuador litigation scandal [Coyote, earlier]
  • Drought disaster unfolds in California’s Central Valley, where project water is allocated by fiat, not bid for in market [Allysia Finley, WSJ; San Jose Mercury-News]
  • Other large democracies resist the idea of packing environmental terms into trade treaties, and maybe they’re right [Simon Lester, Cato]
  • “A Tough Day in Court for the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulations” [Andrew Grossman]
  • R.I.P. leading environmental law professor Joseph Sax [NYT, I discussed his work in Schools for Misrule]
  • Lawyers have hijacked Endangered Species Act [Congressional Working Group report via Washington Examiner editorial]
  • When science begins bringing extinct animals back to life, watch for unintended legal consequences [Tyler Cowen]

“U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York said he found ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that attorney Steven Donziger’s legal team used bribery, fraud and extortion in pursuit of an $18 billion judgment against the oil company issued in 2011.” [Reuters, Bloomberg, 485-pp., 1842-footnote opinion; SFGate, Kevin Williamson, Quin Hillyer, Ira Stoll (New York politicians including Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli roped in as allies of Donziger)] We’ve been covering the story for years.

{ 1 comment }

The partner from the prominent plaintiff’s and class-action firm testified that he signed on to the much-ballyhooed environmental suit against Chevron, then backed out almost immediately after seeing the ethical issues [Reuters]

P.S. Testimony from Philadelphia attorney Joseph Kohn of Kohn, Swift, & Graf also appears unhelpful, to say the least, to Steven Donziger’s case [Paul Barrett, Bloomberg Business Week]

“The judge, Alberto Guerra, took the stand … in Manhattan federal court during the trial in a racketeering suit in which Chevron alleged that the verdict in Ecuador was procured through fraud. Guerra has said in a declaration filed with the court that he was paid thousands of dollars by lawyers for the plaintiffs to steer the case in their favor.” A spokesman for Steven Donziger, Chevron’s adversary at the trial, calls the former jurist an “extortionist.” [Bloomberg Business Week, Christie Smythe and Paul M. Barrett; Bernard Vaughan, Reuters; earlier]

More: Roger Parloff/Fortune; earlier Bloomberg (“[Donziger's] media campaign … helped to secure an article in Vanity Fair”).

{ 2 comments }

October 14 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 14, 2013

  • “Kerr received a 37-page temporary restraining order last Friday which seeks to shut down her [too-popular] haunted house.” [Silver Spring, MD; ABC News]
  • Blockbuster “60 Minutes” on the federal Social Security disability program, if you haven’t seen it yet [CBS; Chris Edwards, Tad DeHaven at Cato; ABA Journal on Kentucky lawyer and more]
  • Chevron complaint against attorney Donziger over Ecuador shenanigans reaches trial Tuesday [Daniel Fisher] More: Michael Goldhaber, American Lawyer (“A Dickensian Cheat Sheet”);
  • Ombudsman on South Dakota Indian foster care case: NPR “reporters and producers tried to push the story beyond the proof that they had. I don’t know why.” [NPR ombudsman]
  • In America we use lawyers for that: “Rabbis Arrested in Plot to Kidnap, Torture Husbands to Force Divorce” [WSJ, CNN] From 1845, a British judge’s exquisitely arch observations on the then state of divorce law [Sasha Volokh]
  • “Salvage company that lost $600M sunken ship case must pay $1M to Spain for ‘abusive litigation'” [ABA Journal]
  • How Canada lost gun freedom [Pierre Lemieux, Liberty and Law]

{ 1 comment }

Ethics roundup

by Walter Olson on August 13, 2013

{ 1 comment }

July 8 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 8, 2013

{ 3 comments }

Ethics roundup

by Walter Olson on May 22, 2013

  • “Robo-litigation”: ethical issues of the mass-foreclosure mess [Dustin Zachs, SSRN, via Legal Ethics Forum]
  • Roger Parloff on Chevron counterclaims against Patton Boggs [Fortune] “Judge Grudgingly Lets Donziger’s Lawyers Out Of Chevron Case” [Daniel Fisher; Reuters]
  • Should Australia dilute or abolish the “cab rank” rule? [John Flood via LEF]
  • “Ethical Limits on Civil Litigation Advocacy: A Historical Perspective” [Carol Andrews (Alabama), SSRN; Legal Ethics Forum]
  • “When Is a Demand Letter (Arguably) Extortion?” [John Steele, more, ABA Journal (Martin Singer demand letter threatening to expose target's sexual indiscretions]
  • Fifth Circuit denies Dickie Scruggs’s latest appeal [YallPolitics]
  • When crowdfunding meets litigation finance, watch out world [Richard Painter]
  • “Judge Orders Prenda Law Group Beamed Out Into Space” [Lowering the Bar, TechDirt]