May 27th, 2020
CONTACT: Paul Paz y Miño at +1.510.773.4635 or firstname.lastname@example.org
San Ramon, CA – Chevron's annual shareholder's meeting took place online this year due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Shareholders listened as Chevron CEO Michael Wirth, as well as senior management and the company's Board of Directors, faced a barrage of shareholder resolutions criticizing the company's poor human rights and environmental record, the enormous funds spent to lobby against climate change action, and its legacy of rainforest destruction and efforts to escape justice for its admitted environmental crimes in Ecuador's Amazon.
Ironically, by holding a virtual meeting, Chevron opened itself up to participation by individuals who rarely involve themselves in what is usually a closed-door ticketed event at the company's San Ramon headquarters. Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams and world-renowned actor and producer Alec Baldwin both stood to move shareholder resolutions related to the $9.5 billion Ecuador liability by sharing pre-recorded video messages.
Chevron was forced to share the audio messages from Baldwin and Williams at the meeting (links to the video versions available at the end of this release). "The tide of public opinion is turning," said Baldwin, who accused Wirth of not protecting shareholder value by ignoring its Ecuador liability. CEO Wirth responded to Baldwin by saying his comments were "offensive" before proceeding to read a long list of scripted lies in a futile attempt to refute Baldwin's accusation that Chevron has become the "Harvey Weinstein of petroleum companies."
Nobel peace prize winner Jody Williams, on behalf of 28 other Nobel laureates from around the world who signed a statement of support for the Ecuadorian communities that was recently featured in the Financial Times, confronted the company about its stated "Chevron Way". Williams called Chevron out for its actual practices of "using corporate money to retaliate and intimidate" its critics, including New York attorney Steven Donziger whom the company has tried to demonize for years in what is considered the world's most well-financed corporate retaliation campaign.
Representatives of Indigenous communities in Ecuador affected by Chevron's pollution also sent video messages on social media directed at Chevron management. William Lucitante, President of UDAPT, said, "Chevron obtains economic resources while sacrificing our lives. There are many people who suffer from cancer and have died. Our rivers are polluted. The right to food that we have as indigenous peoples is also affected by the pollution… Chevron is guilty and must pay the damages in order to repair the Ecuadorian Amazon." Affected indigenous peoples and communities recently held a worldwide "Anti-Chevron Day" on May 21, highlighting the company's environmental and human rights abuses on multiple continents. Many community representatives highlighted the fact that Chevron's ongoing contamination further exacerbates the COVID crisis, leaving people with no access to clean water – essential to preventing the virus, and refinery air pollution that is making fenceline communities more vulnerable to the virus.
Another message was submitted by legendary rock star Roger Waters (who visited Chevron's devastation in the Amazon in 2018), but Chevron censored the message for its shareholders by refusing to play it. Ironically, the Waters message was a heartfelt appeal for the company to "do the right thing" and stop punishing the people of Ecuador. He also specifically asked Chevron to "call the dogs off Steven Donziger, a human rights lawyer who is being hounded by an unfair, unkind, unlawful judiciary. And it's wrong." Despite Chevron's incredibly well-funded attacks in its stated effort to "demonize Donziger," who is now in his 10th month of house arrest in pre-trial detention, the New York Bar recently recommended his law license be immediately reinstated.
Shareholders representing billions of dollars in assets under management and majorities of non-management controlled shares voted in favor of resolutions calling for Chevron to hold special meetings on the Ecuador situation and separate the board chair role from CEO. (Resolutions number 9 and 10 received 34% and 27% YES votes, respectively – considered well higher than the threshold of 5% to 10% support usually garnered by shareholder resolutions not supported by management).
In response to a resolution urging the company to reduce its carbon footprint, Chevron CEO Wirth claimed the company "respects the Paris Climate Accords." Meanwhile, Chevron's actual commitments to reducing emissions are nowhere near what is needed for the company to fall in line with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
Chevron faced additional pressure from the Sierra Club to pledge not to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Considered sacred to the Gwich'in Nation and key to their food security and way of life, this delicate wilderness has been protected for generations until a provision in the 2017 tax bill opened it for oil and gas leasing. Wirth dismissed the request and made no commitment to stay out of the area.
Regarding Chevron's pollution in Richmond, California, Sister Nora Nash, of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, spoke on behalf of a resolution asking Chevron to make real commitments to respect human rights stating, "Chevron has not taken responsibility for the fact that it is Richmond's largest polluter."
Chevron refineries across the United States are the largest purchasers and processors of crude oil imported from the Amazon rainforest. The extraction and processing of Amazon crude continues to destroy the climate-protecting rainforest and threaten the rights of indigenous peoples and marginalized communities from Ecuador to California.
"Chevron is widely acknowledged to be the world's worst oil company with respect to environmental and human rights practices, accountability, and efforts to threaten and intimate its critics around the world," said Paul Paz y Miño of Amazon Watch. "Every year the power of the movement fighting to hold Chevron to account for its actions becomes stronger and the company's leadership shrinks in the face of the groundswell against it. Chevron is the perfect example of a bad corporate actor hiding behind lawyers and PR firms in a failing attempt to stave off the inevitable."
Justino Piaguaje, President of the Siekopai Nation in the Ecuadorian Amazon:
"I'm Anti-Chevron because of this river, the Aguarico River. Some time ago when Chevron-Texaco was extracting crude, they poured thousands of barrels of oil, they poured toxic water into this river, into this river, this river that for thousands of years has provided us with food. While you, shareholders of Chevron, filled up your accounts and pockets with money, I am a witness of how our people have been victims. They have died of cancer, they have died of illnesses, they haven't been able to feed themselves well and we continue on this way. Because of this, I am Anti-Chevron."
Alec Baldwin in response to Chevron CEOs' reaction to Baldwin's statement as "offensive" and "false":
"CEO Mike Wirth lies just as we anticipated he would. It reads like a script we wrote months ago."
Roger Waters in response to Chevron's refusal to play his message:
"Alec Baldwin, Jody Williams and I submitted formal recordings for Chevron's annual shareholder meeting today and yet I was gagged by Mike Wirth the CEO and chairman of the board."
Sierra Club campaign representative Ben Cushing:
"Between the instability of the oil market, the growing movement among financial institutions away from Arctic drilling, and the lack of data about how much oil is even there, any oil company interested in drilling in the Arctic Refuge will be hard-pressed to explain to their shareholders how that makes financial sense. Drilling in the Arctic Refuge would be a disaster for our climate and for the human rights of the Gwich'in Nation, and it's clearer than ever that it would also be a bad business decision for any company foolish enough to pursue it. Even though we weren't able to be there to make our case in person this year, that didn't stop us from standing with the Gwich'in and demanding that Chevron stay out of the Arctic Refuge."
As You Sow Energy Program Manager Lila Holzman:
"At today's meeting, roughly 46% of shareholders showed Chevron they are concerned with how the company is managing risks related to the build-out of petrochemical investments that are vulnerable to growing climate-related impacts. This strong vote signals that investors agree Chevron's existing risk management practices have been insufficient to protect public health and are calling on the Company to do more to demonstrate how it will mitigate a clear risk."
Lauren Regan, Executive Director of the who recently joined the legal team in defense of human rights lawyer Steven Donziger:
"This is the fossil fuel industry using its obscene monetary power to try and prevent litigants from accessing skilled lawyers to seek justice from the Courts and legal system. An attack on one is an attack on all. Public interest lawyers and allies around the world are paying close attention to this extremely perverse miscarriage of justice and must stand in solidarity with Attorney Donziger."
All video messages can be found at this YouTube playlist.