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6 Months Ended
Jun. 30, 2011
Litigation & Other Contingencies and Commitments [Abstract]  
Note 9.  Litigation
MTBE Chevron and many other companies in the petroleum industry have used methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) as a gasoline additive. Chevron is a party to 20 pending lawsuits and claims, the majority of which involve numerous other petroleum marketers and refiners. Resolution of these lawsuits and claims may ultimately require the company to correct or ameliorate the alleged effects on the environment of prior release of MTBE by the company or other parties. Additional lawsuits and claims related to the use of MTBE, including personal-injury claims, may be filed in the future. The company’s ultimate exposure related to pending lawsuits and claims is not determinable, but could be material to net income in any one period. The company no longer uses MTBE in the manufacture of gasoline in the United States.
Ecuador Chevron is a defendant in a civil lawsuit before the Superior Court of Nueva Loja in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, brought in May 2003 by plaintiffs who claim to be representatives of certain residents of an area where an oil production consortium formerly had operations. The lawsuit alleges damage to the environment from the oil exploration and production operations and seeks unspecified damages to fund environmental remediation and restoration of the alleged environmental harm, plus a health monitoring program. Until 1992, Texaco Petroleum Company (Texpet), a subsidiary of Texaco Inc., was a minority member of this consortium with Petroecuador, the Ecuadorian state-owned oil company, as the majority partner; since 1990, the operations have been conducted solely by Petroecuador. At the conclusion of the consortium and following an independent third-party environmental audit of the concession area, Texpet entered into a formal agreement with the Republic of Ecuador and Petroecuador for Texpet to remediate specific sites assigned by the government in proportion to Texpet’s ownership share of the consortium. Pursuant to that agreement, Texpet conducted a three-year remediation program at a cost of $40 million. After certifying that the sites were properly remediated, the government granted Texpet and all related corporate entities a full release from any and all environmental liability arising from the consortium operations.
Based on the history described above, Chevron believes that this lawsuit lacks legal or factual merit. As to matters of law, the company believes first, that the court lacks jurisdiction over Chevron; second, that the law under which plaintiffs bring the action, enacted in 1999, cannot be applied retroactively; third, that the claims are barred by the statute of limitations in Ecuador; and, fourth, that the lawsuit is also barred by the releases from liability previously given to Texpet by the Republic of Ecuador and Petroecuador and by the pertinent provincial and municipal governments. With regard to the facts, the company believes that the evidence confirms that Texpet’s remediation was properly conducted and that the remaining environmental damage reflects Petroecuador’s failure to timely fulfill its legal obligations and Petroecuador’s further conduct since assuming full control over the operations.
In 2008, a mining engineer appointed by the court to identify and determine the cause of environmental damage, and to specify steps needed to remediate it, issued a report recommending that the court assess $18.9 billion, which would, according to the engineer, provide financial compensation for purported damages, including wrongful death claims, and pay for, among other items, environmental remediation, health care systems and additional infrastructure for Petroecuador. The engineer’s report also asserted that an additional $8.4 billion could be assessed against Chevron for unjust enrichment. In 2009, following the disclosure by Chevron of evidence that the judge participated in meetings in which businesspeople and individuals holding themselves out as government officials discussed the case and its likely outcome, the judge presiding over the case was recused. In 2010, Chevron moved to strike the mining engineer’s report and to dismiss the case based on evidence obtained through discovery in the United States indicating that the report was prepared by consultants for the plaintiffs before being presented as the mining engineer’s independent and impartial work and showing further evidence of misconduct. In August 2010, the judge issued an order stating that he was not bound by the mining engineer’s report and requiring the parties to provide their positions on damages within 45 days. Chevron subsequently petitioned for recusal of the judge, claiming that he had disregarded evidence of fraud and misconduct and that he had failed to rule on a number of motions within the statutory time requirement.
In September 2010, Chevron submitted its position on damages, asserting that no amount should be assessed against it. The plaintiffs’ submission, which relied in part on the mining engineer’s report, took the position that damages are between approximately $16 billion and $76 billion and that unjust enrichment should be assessed in an amount between approximately $5 billion and $38 billion. The next day, the judge issued an order closing the evidentiary phase of the case and notifying the parties that he had requested the case file so that he could prepare a judgment. Chevron petitioned to have that order declared a nullity in light of Chevron’s prior recusal petition, and because procedural and evidentiary matters remained unresolved. In October 2010, Chevron’s motion to recuse the judge was granted. A new judge took charge of the case and revoked the prior judge’s order closing the evidentiary phase of the case. On December 17, 2010, the judge issued an order closing the evidentiary phase of the case and notifying the parties that he had requested the case file so that he could prepare a judgment.
Chevron and Texpet filed an arbitration claim in September 2009 against the Republic of Ecuador before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague under the Rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. The claim alleges violations of the Republic of Ecuador’s obligations under the United States-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) and breaches of the settlement and release agreements between the Republic of Ecuador and Texpet (described above), which are investment agreements protected by the BIT. Through the arbitration, Chevron and Texpet are seeking relief against the Republic of Ecuador, including a declaration that any judgment against Chevron in the Lago Agrio litigation constitutes a violation of Ecuador’s obligations under the BIT. On February 9, 2011, the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued an Order for Interim Measures requiring the Republic of Ecuador to take all measures at its disposal to suspend or cause to be suspended the enforcement or recognition within and without Ecuador of any judgment against Chevron in the Lago Agrio case pending further order of the Tribunal. Chevron expects to continue seeking permanent injunctive relief and monetary relief before the Tribunal.
Through a series of recent U.S. court proceedings initiated by Chevron to obtain discovery relating to the Lago Agrio litigation and the BIT arbitration, Chevron has obtained evidence that it believes shows a pattern of fraud, collusion, corruption, and other misconduct on the part of several lawyers, consultants and others acting for the Lago Agrio plaintiffs. In February 2011, Chevron filed a civil lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York against the Lago Agrio plaintiffs and several of their lawyers, consultants and supporters, alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and other state laws. Through the civil lawsuit, Chevron is seeking relief that includes an award of damages and a declaration that any judgment against Chevron in the Lago Agrio litigation is the result of fraud and other unlawful conduct and is therefore unenforceable. On March 7, 2011, the Federal District Court issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Lago Agrio plaintiffs and persons acting in concert with them from taking any action in furtherance of recognition or enforcement of any judgment against Chevron in the Lago Agrio case pending resolution of Chevron’s civil lawsuit by the Federal District Court. The defendents appealed the preliminary injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The Federal District Court has set a trial date of November 14, 2011 for Chevron’s claim for declaratory relief.
On February 14, 2011, the Provincial Court in Lago Agrio rendered an adverse judgment in the case. The Provincial Court rejected Chevron’s defenses to the extent the Court addressed them in its opinion. The judgment assessed approximately $8.6 billion in damages and approximately $0.9 billion as an award for the plaintiffs’ representatives. It also assessed an additional amount of approximately $8.6 billion in punitive damages unless the company issued a public apology within fifteen days of the judgment, which Chevron did not do. On February 17, 2011, the plaintiffs appealed the judgment, seeking increased damages, and on March 11, 2011, Chevron appealed the judgment, seeking to have the judgment nullified. Chevron continues to believe the Court’s judgment is illegitimate and unenforceable in Ecuador, the United States and other countries. The company also believes the judgment is the product of fraud, and contrary to the legitimate scientific evidence. Chevron cannot predict the timing or ultimate outcome of the appeals process in Ecuador. Chevron will continue a vigorous defense of any imposition of liability. Because Chevron has no substantial assets in Ecuador, Chevron would expect enforcement actions as a result of this judgment to be brought in other jurisdictions. Chevron expects to contest any such actions.
The ultimate outcome of the foregoing matters, including any financial effect on Chevron, remains uncertain. Management does not believe an estimate of a reasonably possible loss (or a range of loss) can be made in this case. Due to the defects associated with the judgment, the 2008 engineer’s report and the September 2010 plaintiffs’ submission, management does not believe these documents have any utility in calculating a reasonably possible loss (or a range of loss). Moreover, the highly uncertain legal environment surrounding the case provides no basis for management to estimate a reasonably possible loss (or a range of loss).