The story has everything: the alleged contamination of the rain forest by a giant US oil company; credible evidence that the plaintiffs’ lawyers bribed a judge so he would let them ghostwrite his $18 billion ruling against Chevron; and an admission from another judge involved in the case (who informed on the judge who issued the verdict) that he had received money from Chevron. In addition, there’s a racketeering counterclaim brought in New York by Chevron’s blue-chip law firm against the plaintiffs’ lawyers, which has prevented the $18 billion judgment from being enforced.
There’s all that and more, including talkative and colorful (and heroic, shady or overzealous, depending on which side you’re on) lawyers who’ve been fighting this case for 20 years.
All that intrigue and name-calling and claims and counterclaims among the lawyers and judges would make for a dramatic, fun narrative — like watching scorpions fight in a bottle. But there are also crucial legal issues involved, including not only who should pay how much for alleged rain forest contamination but also a fascinating and increasingly important international law dilemma about whether one country’s courts can refuse to recognize the rulings of another country’s.
I know all this because Alison Frankel, a former colleague at The American Lawyer, has been covering the case in the litigation newsletter she writes for Reuters. Here’s her latest report.
So, a simple suggestion: If those other publications are going to continue to miss this story, Reuters ought to turn Frankel loose to write a full-blown feature or book about it.
3. Let’s go inside the drone industry:
From Time’s recent cover story, to the grilling and accompanying media coverage that CIA Director-designate John Brennan got at his Senate confirmation hearing, to the looming civil liberties and Federal Aviation Administration regulatory issues involving their increased use by local police forces, unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, have now taken center stage.
What I haven’t seen is a comprehensive story about the drone industry. There are thousands of drones out there, up from dozens just a few years ago, with tens of thousands more on order. Defense contractor Raytheon sends out regular press releases about its drone sales. But I assume there is feverish competition from other giant defense contractors, like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, and from ambitious startups.
So who’s out there trying to sell what? How do they differentiate their products? What are the profit margins? I suspect they are pretty high because technology like this — which provides a huge savings over the alternative manned vehicles — usually allows for prices well above the cost because everyone can point to all the money being saved no matter how high the profits are. Nonetheless, are any players trying to compete on price? If so, what lobbyists have been deployed to head off the price-cutter?
How many jobs is the new industry producing, and at what cost to job loss, if any, related to declining orders for manned aircraft? Were any of the big players late to the party because they made the classic mistake of not wanting to cannibalize their current businesses selling manned aircraft or ship-based missiles, only to allow their competitors a head start in cannibalizing it?