Law of the Jungle: The $19 Billion Legal Battle Over Oil in the Rain Forest and the Lawyer Who'd Stop at Nothing to Win [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 ...
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Law of the Jungle: The $19 Billion Legal Battle Over Oil in the Rain Forest and the Lawyer Who'd Stop at Nothing to Win

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Overview

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.   
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 09/01/2014
Journalist Barrett (Bloomberg Businessweek) has done it again. As with his previous book Glock: The Rise of America's Gun, the author has written an enthralling, deeply researched volume about the intersection of law and individual rights. The question that readers will have at the conclusion of this one is: Who is the villain in this tale? The Harvard University-educated social activist lawyer Steven Donziger, who sued Texaco (later Chevron) on behalf of Ecuadorian peasants for despoiling the rain forest; the oil company; Ecuador; or all of them? The work benefits greatly from Barrett's use of primary source material and interviews with the participants. After setting the scene in the first three chapters, the author proceeds chronologically from the 1960s, when oil was discovered in Ecuador, to the oil company striking back in court against Donziger in 2013. The final result is still pending. This book excels in describing the peasants' plight, the effect on Ecuador, and the lawyers' battles. Barrett skillfully takes readers inside the players' minds and exposes the underside of high-stakes litigation. VERDICT A sure-fire movie prospect for readers interested in human rights, the environment, and the law. [See Prepub Alert, 3/31/14.]—Harry Charles, St. Louis
Publishers Weekly
08/04/2014
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. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“An enthralling true-life courtroom drama…Almost Shakespearean in scope, featuring a flawed protagonist with good intentions but tragically overreaching ambitions.” 
-Booklist

"Irresistable…a true-life, courtroom version of Heart of Darkness."
—Kirkus Reviews

“An enthralling, deeply researched volume about the intersection of law and individual rights…Barrett skillfully takes readers inside the players' minds and exposes the underside of high-stakes litigation.” 
–Library Journal

“In a story possessing ‘no shortage of knaves and villains,’ Barrett skillfully weighs the ethics of both Donziger and Chevron and finds them wanting.”
—Publishers Weekly

“This chilling account of the bruising, bare-knuckled conflict between a deeply flawed do-gooder and a well-oiled legal steamrolling machine should give pause to anyone who believes that justice always prevails.  Barrett brilliantly shows that in the real world, the law of the jungle—an oxymoron if there ever was one—trumps the rule of law.” 
Alan Dershowitz, professor, Harvard Law School, and author, Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law

Law of the Jungle is a riveting piece of storytelling. The environmental insults make you furious and your heart breaks for the people whose ways of life are violated—but what happens after that challenges your beliefs about fairness and justice....This isn’t a simple David and Goliath story; it’s an engaging passion play that unfolds from the Ecuadorian jungles to the courtrooms of New York.”
David Yarnold, President & CEO, National Audubon Society
 
"Paul Barrett's Law of the Jungle is a cautionary tale — a deeply reported, well-written reminder that to be credible and effective, the fight against environmental misconduct must be waged within the rule of law. Our legal system can be a powerful force for environmental progress, but its rules have to be respected." 
Fred Krupp, President, Environmental Defense Fund

“This smart and gripping book by a first-class investigative journalist teaches a vital lesson that everyone who cares about business and the American economy needs to understand: When confronted with fraudulent courtroom shakedowns, corporations must fight back as Chevron did.”
Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of General Electric and bestselling author of Winning

“Paul Barrett's Law of the Jungle is the inside story of the international trial of the decade—a high stakes fight over oil, blood and money and a protagonist who is as fascinating as he is perplexing.”
Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Oath and the Nine

“An engrossing, captivating account of litigation run amok. Barrett’s comprehensive, detailed book demonstrates all that is wrong with the American litigation system. Required reading for anyone who not only wants to learn more about protracted lawsuits in America but yearns for a page-turning legal thriller. I can’t wait for the movie.”
Kenneth R. Feinberg, court-appointed special master for compensating victims of the 9/11 attacks, BP oil spill, Virginia Tech massacre, asbestos insulation, Dalkon Shield IUD, and Vietnam defoliant Agent Orange

“Paul Barrett’s Law of the Jungle creates an unforgettable rainbow of lawyers who do indeed live by the Law of the Jungle. You will be intrigued until the last page as to who will survive and your emotions will be struck to ask, who should?
Victor Schwartz, general counsel, American Tort Reform Association; partner, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, Washington D.C.

“Masterfully written and carefully documented, Law of the Jungle tells the real story behind the historic Chevron oil pollution case, which I saw from the inside as technical consultant and court expert for the rain forest plaintiffs.”
David L. Russell, P.E., chief executive, Global Environmental Operations Inc.

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-07-14
Here's a twist: the almost unbelievable tale of a human rights attorney every bit as conscienceless as the multinational he was suing. Filed in 1993 against Texaco, later acquired by Chevron, on behalf of the powerless Ecuadorian Indians of the Oriente, the Aguinda lawsuit sought recovery for a jungle region devastated by environmental depredations and health hazards resulting from decades of oil drilling. How Steven Donziger, barely two years out of law school, a man who had never filed even a single civil suit, became the lead attorney in a case against America's third-largest corporation makes for an interesting story. How over 20 years he strategized, maneuvering the case through courtrooms in Ecuador and New York, how he rallied Hollywood stars, music industry celebrities, independent filmmakers and environmental activists to the cause, attracting favorable news coverage from prestigious outlets like 60 Minutes and the New York Times, how he secured a $19 billion judgment—all this makes the story even more compelling. When Chevron countersued Donziger, however, and demonstrated that the young firebrand's victory depended on fraud, witness tampering, intimidation of judges and an orgy of spoliation, well, that story becomes irresistible. Bloomberg Businessweek assistant managing editor Barrett (Glock: The Rise of America's Gun, 2012, etc.) has been reporting this saga for years, and his familiarity with all the players, his understanding of the issues and his cool assessment of the damage inflicted by this protracted legal battle show on every page. While Donziger, his allies and methods take a beating, Barrett doesn't let Chevron or the hardball tactics of its high-powered attorneys off the hook. Many lawyers, experts and consultants have grown rich off of Aguinda; some attorneys and their firms have been wrecked. Meanwhile, the toxic waste in the Oriente has gone untreated, the natives uncompensated. The legal fight goes on. Imagine a true-life, courtroom version of Heart of Darkness.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780770436353
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/23/2014
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Paul M. Barrett is an assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek.  He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun, American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion, and The Good Black:  A True Story of Race in America.  He lives and works in New York City. 
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