Steven Donziger, a self-styled social activist and Harvard educated lawyer, signed on to a budding class action lawsuit against multinational Texaco (which later merged with Chevron to become the third-largest corporation in America). The suit sought reparations for the Ecuadorian peasants and tribes people whose lives were affected by decades of oil production near their villages and fields. During twenty years of legal hostilities in federal courts in Manhattan and remote provincial tribunals in the Ecuadorian jungle, Donziger and Chevron’s lawyers followed fierce no-holds-barred rules. Donziger won an unlikely victory, a $19 billion judgment from an Ecuadorian judge against Chevron–the biggest environmental damages award in history.
But Chevron refused to surrender or compromise. Instead, it targeted Donziger personally, and its counter-attack with a RICO suit revealed damning evidence of his politicking and manipulation of evidence. Suddenly the verdict, and decades of Donziger’s single-minded pursuit of the case, began to unravel before a federal judge in New York.
Paul M. Barrett, assistant managing editor and senior writer for Bloomberg Businessweek, spent more than three years covering the litigation. On Tuesday, October 28, at noon in K1D, he will discuss his new book Law of the Jungle: The $19 Billion Legal Battle Over Oil in the Rain Forest and the Lawyer Who’d Stop at Nothing to Win (Crown, 2014).
Booklist praises the book as “An enthralling true-life courtroom drama…Almost Shakespearean in scope, featuring a flawed protagonist with good intentions but tragically overreaching ambitions.” The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin: “Paul Barrett’s Law of the Jungle is the inside story of the international trial of the decade—a high stakes fight over oil, blood and money and a protagonist who is as fascinating as he is perplexing.”
The event will be hosted by Temple’s Institute for International Law and Public Policy.