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4 Jan 2012

Ed Crooks and Naomi Mapstone, Financial Times

Chevron’s Ecuador case takes new twist

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For Chevron shareholders, an Ecuadorean court’s confirmation on Tuesday evening of an $18bn damages award against the company has been a non-event. Yet the legal battle over pollution caused by Chevron’s predecessor Texaco in the Amazon region of Ecuador is not over yet. The saga, which has held plenty of twists and turns since the first action was launched back in 1993, still has more to come. The fight has dragged on thanks in large part to the dogged persistence of Steven Donziger, the plaintiffs’ controversial US-based lawyer. While Chevron remains adamant in its rejection of the case against it, the company could yet end up having to pay a multi-billion dollar settlement to resolve the issue. Fadel Gheit, an analyst at Oppenheimer in New York, says: “At the very beginning, it didn’t look as though the case was going anywhere. Oil companies get sued every day by everyone, everywhere, and most of the cases we never hear about.” Now he expects Chevron to agree to pay $2bn-$3bn to bring the dispute to an end.