* Int'l arbitration panel to hear first evidence by Nov
* Ecuador court increased damages against Chevron to $19 bln
* Chevron suing original plaintiffs and lawyers for fraud
By Braden Reddall
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug 2 An international tribunal
that will weigh in on Chevron Corp's two-decade dispute
over pollution in Ecuador has set a timeline that runs into
2014, according to a Chevron regulatory filing on Thursday.
The panel, formed via The Hague's Permanent Court of
Arbitration under the United Nations Commission on International
Trade Law, is hearing a dispute over whether Ecuador violated a
treaty with the United States requiring it to guarantee Chevron
a fair trial.
An Ecuador court ruled against Chevron in February 2011.
Last week, damages stemming from that hotly contested decision
were increased to $19 billion from $18.2 billion.
Chevron said the international tribunal will hear by late
November about the scope of a 1998 settlement and release
agreement given by Ecuador's government to Texaco, the company
that operated in Ecuador.
Chevron, based in San Ramon, California, east of San
Francisco, purchased Texaco in 2001.
"On July 9, 2012, the Tribunal indicated that it wanted to
hear the remaining issues in January 2014," Chevron disclosed in
its quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange
Commission on Thursday.
Ecuador's attorney general has argued the tribunal has no
jurisdiction because the bilateral trade agreement between the
United States and his country went into effect five years after
Texaco ended operations in Ecuador in 1992.
But earlier this year, the three-person panel reinforced its
interim order that Ecuador suspend court-awarded payments of
claims against Texaco, which was accused of polluting the rain
forest and sickening people there. Some of those residents sued
Chevron says it uncovered through U.S. courts evidence of
fraud by lawyers for the Ecuadorean plaintiffs, which the
lawyers deny. The second-largest U.S. oil company is pursuing
racketeering and fraud charges against the plaintiffs and their
attorneys, and a New York judge ruled this week the fraud case
could go ahead.
Meanwhile, since Chevron has no assets in Ecuador, the
Ecuadorean plaintiffs have launched legal actions in Canada and
Brazil to enforce their $19 billion award. Their spokeswoman
says the New York case is "irrelevant" to the other actions.
Anticipating such a global legal battle, Chevron filed for
the arbitration in September 2009. The panel includes a
Chevron-named member, Horacio Grigera Naon of the American
University law college, one named by Ecuador, Oxford Professor
Vaughan Lowe, and London lawyer V.V. Veeder, chosen by the other