The State Department has done little to help an American corporation battered by a bogus multibillion dollar lawsuit filed in a foreign country. Fortunately, the Obama administration's leadership void was filled Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who issued an injunction barring any collection efforts against Chevron Corp. by Ecuador.
The plaintiffs allege that Texaco (which Chevron bought in 2001) left behind an environmental mess when it stopped drilling in the South American country in 1992. A previous Ecuadorian government pronounced the sites entirely clean in 1998, but the administration of President Rafael Correa ramped up for the suit when it took office in 2007. Judge Kaplan didn't buy it, writing, "There is abundant evidence before the court that Ecuador has not provided impartial tribunals or procedures compatible with due process of law."
Over the past two years, there have been a series of embarrassments for the American lawyers pursuing the suit, including four different U.S. judges using the word "fraud" to describe the attorneys' behavior. Judge Kaplan wrote that Chevron's allegations against the attorneys are "undisputed in every meaningful sense," while arguments by those attorneys are "riddled with flaws."
Even the international court at The Hague has sided against the plaintiffs. On Feb. 9, it ordered Ecuador "to take all measures at its disposal to suspend or cause to be suspended the enforcement or recognition ... of any judgment" against Chevron. Judge Kaplan, for his part, noted the U.S. government should have a "strong interest in protecting its citizens from judgments entered in systems that do not accord their litigants the essentials of due process. ..."
Foggy Bottom hasn't stepped up to protect this California-based company from foreign abuse. It's telling that the Obama administration trails even the Europeans in protecting not just an American corporation, but hundreds of thousands of American shareholders and pensioners with a stake in Chevron's financial well-being. President Obama needs to stand up to all the small countries bullying America on his watch.
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