Russel DeLeon pumped millions into court action against Chevron
One of the founders of the Party Gaming online gambling empire, Russel DeLeon, was in the headlines this week after withdrawing his financial support for an environmental action against the Chevron oil company.
Bloomberg news service reports that DeLeon has accused the lead plaintiff's lawyer in the pollution case – now entering its third decade – of misleading him regarding the underlying facts.
DeLeon became involved in the case through the plaintiff's lawyer, Steven Donziger, a friend from his days at Harvard Law School, and started providing financial support in 2007. Bloomberg reports that over the next six years DeLeon ponied up around $23 million as the plaintiff and Chevron fought it out in legal exchanges involving very large sums of money.
A $19 billion victory for the plaintiff in 2011 was followed by accusations from Chevron that Donziger had been successful through "fraud, coercion, and fabricated evidence." The oil company launched an action against the lawyer in a New York federal court, accusing him of turning the environmental suit into a massive extortion scheme.
The oil company won the case in March last year, overturning the $19 billion benefits obtained earlier.
Donziger has appealed this judgement, but his professional and financial supporters have been alarmed by developments and have in some cases distanced themselves from his efforts.
DeLeon is apparently the latest to do so, allegedly retreating under pressure from Chevron, which sued him personally in Gibraltar for allegedly financing the crooked legal campaign.
In a statement on the issue last month, DeLeon said that after reviewing the court's findings on Donziger's activities he has concluded that "representatives of the [Ecuadorian] plaintiffs, including Steven Donziger, misled me about important facts. If I had known these facts, I would not have funded the litigation."
It appears that DeLeon's generosity was not motivated solely by altruism; the report notes that in return for his financial support, DeLeon had been promised a 7 percent share in any benefits flowing from the case.
In his statement, DeLeon said: "I no longer seek or wish to receive any financial benefit from this matter, and I have therefore decided to relinquish my entire interest in the litigation to Chevron."
In return, the oil company agreed to drop its suit against DeLeon, who agreed to provide Chevron with information and documents related to the pollution case.
"We are pleased that yet another long-time supporter has ended his association with this scheme," R. Hewitt Pate, Chevron's vice president and general counsel, said in a prepared statement. "Chevron will continue to hold accountable those who associate themselves with this fraudulent litigation."
However, a spokesperson for Donziger said that DeLeon had only backed away from the issue under legal pressure from Chevron, has not "disavowed" the case and "…knows the charges against us are fabricated by Chevron."
The spokeswoman also intimated that DeLeon's percentage of the action could now be sold to other "investors" who believe Donziger's appeal could be successful.
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