A few items for the record.
Statement from James Craig, Chevron’s US-based spokesman on this issue (sent by e-mail):
“Chevron Corp., the Lago Agrio judgment debtor, has no assets in Argentina. All operations in Argentina are conducted by subsidiaries that have nothing to do with the plaintiffs’ fraud in Ecuador. The plaintiffs’ lawyers have no legal right to embargo subsidiary assets in Argentina and should not be allowed to disrupt Argentina’s pursuit of its important energy resources.
“The Ecuador judgment is a product of bribery, fraud, and it is illegitimate. We do not believe that the Ecuador judgment is enforceable in any court that observes the rule of law.”
In a major blow to Chevron’s effort to avoid paying a historic $19 billion environmental judgment in Ecuador, an Argentine judge today signed the first of what is expected to be many orders freezing billions of dollars of assets owned by the U.S. oil company.
The order, signed by Judge Adrian Elcuj Miranda of the Commercial Court of Justice in Buenos Aries, freezes almost all Chevron assets in Argentina pending enforcement of the Ecuador judgment. The embargo applies to 100% of Chevron’s capital in Argentina, 100% of dividends, all of Chevron’s stake in pipeline operator Oleoductos del Valle SA, 40% of Chevron’s oil sales to Argentine refineries, and 40% of the money Chevron has deposited in Argentine banks, said Enrique Bruchou, the lawyer who represents the indigenous and farmer communities in Ecuador who brought the lawsuit.
Enrique Bruchou, lead attorney for the Ecuadoreans in Argentina, valued Chevron’s assets in Argentina at $2 billion.
Mr Bruchou said the embargo applies to 100% of Chevron’s capital in Argentina, 100% of dividends, all of Chevron’s stake in pipeline operator Oleoductos del Valle SA, 40% of Chevron’s oil sales to Argentine refineries, and 40% of the money Chevron has deposited in Argentine banks.
People have been asking whether a similar order could come down from Venezuela. I have always said no way, that Venezuela is too dependent on Chevron. But with risk analyst hat on, I have to say that the Argentine move raised Chevron’s risk in Venezuela. I don’t think the Chávez government wants to look weaker than Cristina Fernández’s people. I could see some headline-grabbing asset freeze with little or no practical effect — something that would leave Chevron able to operate fully but under some sort of threat. This whole situation is still far from over.