US judge backs Chevron fight against Ecuador judgment

A US federal judge Tuesday ruled in favor of Chevron in an Ecuador environmental case, saying fraud was used to obtain a judgment ordering the oil giant to pay $9.5 billion.

US District Judge Lewis Kaplan said a six-week trial proved that the Ecuadoran court judgment in 2011 was procured through corrupt means in the long-running case.

Kaplan concluded that plaintiffs in the Ecuadoran case committed a host of corrupt actions, including ghost-writing the Ecuadoran judgment, submitting fraudulent evidence and bribery.

"If ever there was a case warranting equitable relief with respect to a judgment procured by fraud, this is it," Kaplan wrote.

Kaplan dismissed a spate of arguments presented by Ecuadoran plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs had maintained that the New York trial was a sideshow by Chevron to avoid responsibility for pollution in the Amazon rainforest.

But Kaplan wrote that "the issue is not what happened in the Oriente more than 20 years ago... It instead is whether a court decision was procured by corrupt means, regardless of whether the cause was just."

Ecuadoran plaintiffs had also argued that Kaplan should not second-guess a foreign court's decision.

But Kaplan said the "wrongful actions" shown at trial "would be offensive to the laws of any nation that aspires to the rule of law, including Ecuador."

Kaplan's ruling bars the Ecuadoran plaintiffs from enforcing Ecuador's ruling in a US court. But he said it did not affect plaintiffs' efforts to enforce the judgment outside the US.

The plaintiffs have tried to enforce the judgment in other countries such as Canada and Argentina.