Chevron’s Face-Saving Counter Suit Gets Slapped

The counterclaims filed by Chevron (NYSE:CVX) against a lawyer who had first sued the oil company on environmental concerns have been cut by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said the company could continue with its racketeering and state law claims against Steven Donziger, but dismissed several other claims, including tortious interference.

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Donziger was the U.S. legal adviser in a case against Chevron where an Ecuadorean court last year issued an $18.2 billion judgment against the company over environmental damage in the Amazon region by Texaco. Chevron had acquired Texaco in 2001. Chevron countered by accusing the Ecuadorean lawyers of manufacturing evidence and improperly influencing the court.

However, the district judge said on Monday that Chevron’s claim was premature. “It cannot be said at this point that the Donziger defendants have been enriched—unjustly or otherwise—especially considering that none of Chevron’s assets have been seized to satisfy the judgment, and the Donziger defendants have yet to receive any contingent fees.”

“Today’s order affirms the core premise of Chevron’s RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act] and fraud case,” a Chevron spokesman said, while a spokeswoman for the Ecuadorean plaintiffs considered the narrowing of allowed claims as a victory for them.

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