The gripping story of one American lawyer’s obsessive crusade—waged at any cost—against Big Oil on behalf of the poor farmers and indigenous tribes of the Amazon rainforest.
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, a larger-than-life, loud-mouthed showman, proved himself a master orchestrator of the media, Hollywood, and public opinion. He cajoled and coerced Ecuadorian judges on the theory that his noble ends justified any means of persuasion. And in the end, he won an unlikely victory, a $19 billion judgment against Chevon--the biggest environmental damages award in history. But the company refused to surrender or compromise. Instead, Chevron targeted Donziger personally, and its counter-attack 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.
Written with the texture and flair of the best narrative nonfiction, Law of the Jungle is an unputdownable story in which there are countless victims, a vast region of ruined rivers and polluted rainforest, but very few heroes.
Barrett (Glock) details a decades-long environmental case between Ecuadorian citizens and the oil-company Chevron that veers from legal drama to bizarre farce. Texaco's two decades of oil production in the Oriente region of Ecuador resulted in environmental contamination for which they were originally sued by lawyer Steven Donziger and others in a 1993 class-action lawsuit. In the following decade, Texaco was taken over by Chevron, the case was dismissed in the U.S. courts, and a trial began in Ecuador. Both Chevron's and Donziger's tactics led Barrett to describe the trial as a "kidney-punching, shin-kicking contest." Chevron paid a third party to concoct a bribery scheme involving Donziger and the judge, while Donziger arranged for the writing of the neutral expert's testimony and actually attempted to block oil-spill clean-up efforts. In 2011, an Ecuadorian judgment ruled against Chevron for a whopping $18.2 billion, and Donziger was indicted in New York under the civil provisions of the RICO law. The Ecuadorian victory, however, "did not get any oil cleaned up or any sick children treated." In a story possessing "no shortage of knaves and villains," Barrett skillfully weighs the ethics of both Donziger and Chevron and finds them wanting.