Chevron-Ecuador case expert switches sides, becomes eyewitness to fraud by plaintiff lawyers

Fernando Reyes, an Ecuadorian author and engineer, used to work for the lawyers suing the oil company Chevron. Now he’s switched sides.

Reyes handed over a sworn statement to Chevron that accuses the lawyers suing the oil giant of trying to manipulate and control the outcome of supposedly “independent” court reports on oil field contamination in Ecuador.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that lawyers wanted leverage to force Chevron to pay for the clean up of parts of the Amazon where the oil company Texaco — bought by Chevron in 2001 — used to drill for oil.

However, Reyes said that three of the lawyers “acknowledged that the judicial inspection process had not yielded data to support their claims of contamination.”

Chevron has been locked in an $19 billion legal battle with environmental groups over environmental damage allegedly caused by Texaco from 1964 to 1992, while it operated in partnership with the state-owned oil company PetroEcuador. Since Chevron has no assets in Ecuador, the lawyers have gone global and pursued Chevron assets in Argentina, Brazil and Canada.

The lawsuit has been plagued by allegations of corruption, with Chevron filing a racketeering suit in the U.S. last year against the Ecuadorians and their lawyers for conducting a “fraudulent litigation and PR campaign against the company,” Bloomberg reports.

However, the anti-Chevron lawyers have accused Chevron of ghostwriting some of Reyes’ comments.

“Reyes either lies or is mistaken when he claims that the plaintiffs acknowledged that the data from the judicial inspections did not support their claims,” said Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs.

Reyes became involved with the Chevron lawsuit late in 2005, after he published a book arguing that both Chevron and the Ecuadorian government needed to clean up the oil fields.

He was asked by Steven Donziger, a U.S. attorney who is leading the case against Chevron, to review the analysis of the contamination tests by court-appointed experts. Reyes agreed, and was told not to tell the court that he was being paid by Donziger and the other plaintiffs.

“Mr. Donziger told us his goal was to create the image that the monitorship was ‘independent’ of the parties, so that it would be received with deference and respect by the court,” said Reyes.