DiNapoli: Chevron request for ethics probe “baseless”

Chevron

New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on Tuesday branded as “baseless” a Chevron Corp. call for an investigation of Mr. DiNapoli, sole trustee of the $150.1 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund, Albany, for his actions relating to Chevron's legal dispute over environmental damage in Ecuador.

The 50-page complaint by Chevron to the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, also filed Tuesday, alleged that Mr. DiNapoli “has apparently violated multiple provisions of New York law” relating to his criticism of Chevron.

The Chevron ethics complaint frequently accuses Mr. DiNapoli of “apparently” violating the New York Public Officers Law, saying his conduct “apparently” reflected a conflict of interest, “apparently misused his official position,” and engaged in “an apparent violation of his public trust.”

Thomas DiNapoli
Thomas DiNapoli

Mr. DiNapoli said in a news release that the request was “a baseless attempt by big oil to intimidate me.”

“The allegations are without merit,” Mr. DiNapoli said in the news release. “Since 2004, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, along with dozens of leading investors worldwide, has called on Chevron to settle its nearly two-decade-long legal battle for polluting the Amazon (River). Chevron refuses. This effort is about protecting shareholder value and fulfilling my fiduciary responsibility to the New York State Common Retirement Fund.”

The New York fund owns about 6.9 million shares of Chevron worth an estimated $706 million, said spokesman Eric Sumberg.

Mr. DiNapoli was not available for additional comment.

The criticism by the pension fund relates to allegations over oil spills and the dumping of oil waste in the Amazon rain forest between 1964 and 1989. Texaco Petroleum, which Chevron acquired in 2001, and a joint venture partner had been involved in the South American oil operations, according to a May news release from Mr. DiNapoli.

Mr. DiNapoli's “continued advocacy has come despite repeated findings by U.S. federal courts that the Ecuador litigation is tainted by fraud,” R. Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president and general counsel, said in a news release.

“Mr. DiNapoli's actions serve only his political patrons, not the citizens of the state of New York or the beneficiaries of the Common Retirement Fund,” Mr. Pate added. “This type of quid pro quo behavior is an apparent breach of ethical and legal responsibilities that warrants investigation.”

The litigation in Ecuador was based on “false allegations that it is responsible for alleged environmental and social harms” in Ecuador, the Chevron news release said. “Chevron never conducted oil production operations in Ecuador, and its subsidiary Texaco Petroleum Co. fully remediated its share of environmental impacts arising from oil production operations, before leaving Ecuador in 1992.”

The news release added that “after the remediation was certified by all agencies of the Ecuadorian government responsible for oversight, (Texaco Petroleum) received a complete release from Ecuador's national, provincial and municipal governments that extinguished all claims before Chevron acquired (Texaco Petroleum) in 2001.”