Let’s explain this somehow

Originally, Texaco attempted to walk away with impunity, but a coalition of Indigenous peoples and local communities sued Texaco in New York, where the company was based. They got support from a small group of American and Ecuadorian human rights lawyers. The eventual leader of the legal team was Steven Donziger, an attorney we’ve come to know and respect.

Somehow, David beat Goliath. After 18 years of court battles, the coalition won $9.5bn in damages,

Through bribery and corruption of the Ecuadorean legal system. Which is an interesting “somehow” really.

10 thoughts on “Let’s explain this somehow”

  1. I bloody hate this “indigenous people”. They’re either red injuns or injuns (indians) if in central or south america. Or savages if you prefer.

  2. Compare and contrast Chevrons stance here and Union Carbides refusal to pay more than pennies over Bhopal with the Obama led shakedown of “BRITISH Petroleum” as he used to hiss despite the company name having changed a decade earlier.

  3. Bloke in North Dorset

    Compare and contrast Chevrons stance here and Union Carbides refusal to pay more than pennies over Bhopal with the Obama led shakedown of “BRITISH Petroleum” as he used to hiss despite the company name having changed a decade earlier. [my emphasis]

    That’s not quite right and its a very sad and tragic story of incompetent bureaucracy. UCC paid out what was negotiated, India’s incompetence meant that none of it got to the victims. Short story:

    After the disaster a load of American ambulance chasing lawyers signed up the victims and won the the right to sue UCC in New York. The Indian Govt didn’t like this idea because they thought the lawyers would take too much (50% was claimed). Indian Govt took over and moved the proceeding back to India (after approval from US judge on the case.

    The case then ended up in the Indian Supreme Court and the Indian Govt settled on behalf of all the vitims:

    First, the Government of India filed a suit in the District Court of Bhopal against UCC. The District Judge of Bhopal ordered Interim Relief of Rs. 350 Crores (3.5 billion) on December 17, 1987. On appeal to the High Court, Judge Deo ordered a modified Interim Relief of Rs. 250 Crores (2.5 billion) on April 4, 1988. UCC and the Union of India thereafter filed appeals in the Supreme Court, which were admitted and referred for hearing to a bench of five judges. During the pendency of the appeals, UCC and the Union of India negotiated a settlement and on February 14, 1989, the Supreme Court approved the settlement of $470 million or Rs 750 Crores (7.5 billion).38 This amount absolved UCC and UCIL of all past, present and future liability making the Bhopal settlement unique. The final settlement of $470 million was based on the assumption that there were 3,000 fatalities and 52,000 victims with different degrees of injuries.39

    The details of this initial settlement are important for two reasons. First, it was the baseline on which all the curative petitions followed. Second, it gives us a sense of how badly the Government of India and the judiciary underestimated the damage caused by the BGL.

    Within two years of the Supreme Court order finalizing the settlement, in a review petition order on October 3, 1991 the Supreme Court acknowledged that there had been around 4,000 deaths and those injured far exceeding 50,000.

    As the author of the paper quoted to above states in the introduction:

    The BGLDA, in replacing the adversarial system with the inquisitorial state bureaucracy, circumvented the discovery process, which led to high error and delayed compensation.

    You can read the paper here or listen to the author discuss it here. It certainly changed my mind on the role of ambulance chasing lawyers, but then as Tim always notes, incentives matter.

  4. I thought that it had recently been established that the earliest human inhabitants of the Americas were unrelated to “native Americans” who were there in 1491. So “indigenous” is a misnomer.

  5. Blimey! I thought this had all been washed up years ago. The national Ecuadorian oil company massively polluted lands occupied by a pre-Columban tribe so someone sued Texaco who took over the oilfield several years after the event.
    The Grauniad dispenses, as usual, with any fact-based analysis.

  6. There are indigenous groups that refute the land bridge theory claiming it’s a European colonial claim to undermine their right to the land and they have been in North America ‘forever’
    Quite what the difference between 10,000 years and forever is I’m not sure

  7. This should certainly discourage wicked Westerners from drilling in these pristine primitive places. After all, there’s no way the Greens could persuade the locals to give up the wealth they could get from oil by just preaching, ‘Keep your country poor and pure’.

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