S5: La Lucha en la Jungla

For more than 30 years, Chevron has been battling a group of Ecuadorian plaintiffs over oil pollution in the Amazon. Chevron inherited the case from Texaco when it acquired the company. It was ordered to pay millions of dollars to the plaintiffs by multiple Ecuadorian judges, but instead sued the plaintiffs and their lawyers in the U.S. under racketeering laws. And the story just continues to get more wild from there. This story has it all: bags of cash, secret cameras, bribed judges, First Amendment violations, a lawyer on house arrest, secret tribunals, and at the end of it all thousands of indigenous people with a simple request “Let us live.”

Ep 1: Lockdown

In August 2019, an American lawyer was put on house arrest as he awaited trial on criminal contempt charges. The charges stem from a decades-long case that began with pollution in the Amazon and has since spanned continents and courtrooms while the victims—indigenous tribes in the Ecuadorian Amazon—continue to seek justice. Transcript

Ep 2: The Colonizers

How did this case come about in the first place? We go back to the early days of oil colonialism in Ecuador, in the 1960s, the partnership between oil men and missionaries, and the impact on indigenous communities in the Amazon. Transcript

Read more about Texaco's impact on Ecuador:

Ep 3: The Trial

The trial gets underway in Ecuador, an election changes the calculus, and a global PR war kicks into high gear. Transcript

Ep 4: The Secret Tribunal

In September 2009, Chevron filed an international arbitration claim against the government of Ecuador over the Lago Agrio case. In the years since the company has pointed to the decisions of that arbitral panel as something akin to court decisions, but they're not—arbitral tribunals exist to help companies protect their profits, and are largely conducted in secret. This system has been quietly shaping environmental and climate policy for years. In this episode, expert Marcos Orellana walks us through this shadowy system, this case in particular, and what it all means for global climate action. Transcript

Ep 5: The Big Guns

With the Ecuadorian plaintiffs racking up good press and an endorsement from the country's president, Chevron kicks things up a notch, bringing on new lawyers and PR firms to tell a very different story. Transcript

Ep 6: A Verdict and a New Charge

The case takes a bizarre turn with a sting operation, U.S. subpoenas, accusations of fraud and bribery, and finally a verdict in Ecuador. Transcript

Bonus Ep: Update, Donziger Headed to Trial with No Representation

New York District Court Judge Loretta Preska has denied repeated requests to delay Donziger's criminal contempt trial until at least one of his lawyers can be present. Barring any last-minute changes, he'll stand trial Monday, November 9th, after which he could be sent to jail for six months. In this ep, reporter Karen Savage brings us the latest and we hear from attorneys Lauren Regan and Ronald Kuby about what sort of precedent this sets.

Ep 7: The Linchpin

Chevron's attorneys go after Joe Berlinger, the filmmaker behind the documentary about the case, Crude. They subpoena his outtakes, kicking off a years-long First Amendment battle. Transcript

Ep 8: Damages

Chevron's legal team shocks the Ecuadorian plaintiffs with a massive racketeering claim in the U.S. alleging fraud, witness tampering, and even bribery. Transcript

Ep 9: The Judge

Corruption charges against both the Ecuadorian judge and the American judge fly as the RICO gets underway. Transcript

Ep 10: The Kill Step

Chevron makes good on its promise to fight the Ecuadorian judgement until hell freezes over ... and then fight it out on the ice. Donziger loses his appeal of the RICO judgement, then finds himself facing contempt charges and disbarment. Transcript

Ep 11: ¿Y Ahora Que?

Donziger is still on house arrest and disbarred, the settlement seems impossible to collect, now what? In this episode we look at what this case says about accountability and the power of oil companies, and what options remain for the Ecuadorians seeking justice. Transcript

S5 Update: Latest on Donziger's Case

Steven Donziger, the American attorney we profiled in S5 is scheduled for trial May 10th, but his lawyers have filed another motion to dismiss, alleging vindictive prosecution. Karen Savage joins for an update on this story. You can also check out corresponding posts with updates on this story: