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'Down the Rabbit Hole' in the Chevron Pollution Case

An employee of state-owned Petroecuador working on the environmental cleaning of 30-year old oil spillage in Ecuador's Rumipamba commune in 2011
An employee of state-owned Petroecuador working on the environmental cleaning of 30-year old oil spillage in Ecuador's Rumipamba commune in 2011Photograph by Rodrigo Buendia/AFP via Getty Images

What does it mean to be a lawyer? What if it turns out your client has committed fraud? Does that make you, the lawyer, liable for fraud?

These are some of the questions spinning out of the epic 20-year legal battle over whether Chevron is responsible for oil pollution in the rain forest in northeastern Ecuador. An Ecuadorian court has held the U.S. energy company liable—to the tune of $19 billion. Chevron refuses to pay because it says the Ecuadorian judiciary and American plaintiffs’ lawyers conspired in a vast racketeering plot to extort from the multinational. The plaintiffs’ lawyers deny that.