Having virtually all the money in the world often means you can buy silence, you can buy time, and you can buy lies.
Chevron has demonstrated this time and again in its decades-long battle to evade accountability for deliberately dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into the Ecuadorian Amazon.
The problem is that this time, what Chevron has bought is a bag of lies in the form of false testimony from a thoroughly disreputable source, and it isn't able to hide the price tag.
In the ongoing saga of Chevron's scorched earth legal strategy, disgraced former judge Alberto Guerra testified last month in a New York court case in which the company is seeking to avoid the ruling of Ecuadorian courts to pay damages for its destruction.
Guerra testified in support of the company's most explosive allegations ― that the judgment against Chevron was ghostwritten by the plaintiffs and that his efforts to seek bribes were partly on behalf of Judge Nicolas Zambrano, who issued the historic US$19 billion final judgment in the Ecuadorian environmental litigation.
Somehow, Chevron expects the court (and public) to believe that a man who has admitted fixing cases and accepting bribes throughout his career as a lawyer and a judge is being honest this time ― despite receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from Chevron for his testimony.
And everything depends upon his word, as the supporting “evidence” that he has presented is laughably incomplete (he claims his computer died, which is why he has essentially nothing to back up his story).
For months, Guerra worked with Chevron to prepare his testimony ― and yet it was still full of gaping holes and contradictions. Amazon Watch was there in court and could not help wondering how anyone could take Guerra seriously.
Of course, there is no jury in this trial ― something Chevron worked very hard to guarantee ― just a wall of stone-faced lawyers whose fat paychecks depend upon Kaplan accepting Guerra's testimony as credible (or at least convenient).
It does not take a law degree to see that a man who is known for being a “liar for hire”, and who has admitted that Chevron is paying him more than 20 times his prior salary, is not a credible witness. But Chevron is operating in a legal realm of its own creation.
It is a realm where you can sue the victims of your own environmental abuses, where you can prevent consideration of any actual evidence in the case, and where you can pay witnesses to give their “testimony” on your behalf.
These unethical manoeuvers have not gone unnoticed by the legal community. Erwin Chemerinsky, a noted legal scholar and dean of the University of California Irvine School of Law, said: “That Chevron and its counsel have crossed the line here cannot seriously be debated.
“If a party or its counsel were permitted to pay a testifying witness for physical evidence, beyond the reasonable value of that evidence, and to pay the witness a salary in exchange for an agreement to testify, there would be little left of the rule against compensating fact witnesses.
“That is precisely what has occurred here.”
The Ecuadorians have now moved that all of Guerra's fraudulent testimony be stricken.
Remember, this was the best Chevron could do on this case. It knows that it cannot discuss the abundant evidence of its misdeeds ― it still sits in toxic pools by the hundreds in Ecuador ― so it has pinned its feeble accusations of a sinister conspiracy on claims of a corrupt legal process.
It is true, however, that some corruption has been uncovered. So when will Chevron and its legal team be brought before a court to answer for paying a confessed charlatan to commit perjury?