A former PartyGaming consultant, Russ DeLeon, is embroiled in the fight of his life, as a series of lawsuits and counter-lawsuits emerge from his ‘litigation funding’ dealings, with a lawsuit involving the oil and gas giant Chevron, and the people of the Ecuadorian rain forests.
Have you ever heard of the word ‘litigation funding’ before?
Litigation funding is a process that enables a third party to pay some, or all of the costs, of a lawsuit, with the view that should the lawsuit be successful the third party will receive a percentage of the total settlement. Should the lawsuit fail then the third party loses their investment.
Step forward the former PartyGaming consultant Russ DeLeon. A regular in the Sunday Times Rich List – because he lives in Gibraltar – the American, and his ex wife Ruth Parasol are said to be worth close to $760m after profiting immensely from the PartyGaming IPO of 2005.
It’s reported in Bloomberg Business Week that DeLeon invested $23m in a lawsuit that was being spearheaded by his former Harvard Law School friend Steven Donziger. The American lawyer who took on the Lago Agrio oil field case, on behalf of thousands of farmers, and indigenous people of Ecuador, who were fighting Chevron for damages relating to oil pollution in their lands.
In 2011, Donziger won the case and his clients were awarded $8.6bn. Not happy with that settlement, an appeal later saw the pay out rise to $19bn, until a counter appeal once again saw the figure deflate back to $9.5bn.
At the time of the case Donziger was found to be very creative in his methods of attracting funds to fight the corporate giant, and this is where his friendship with Russ DeLeon comes into the equation and his $23m donation.
Chevron refused to pay out and the arguments continued until in March 2014, a US District Judge ruled that Steven Donziger had used corrupt means to win the case. Allegations of coercion, bribery and money laundering floated above the surface and Chevron went on the attack.
On March 14, a Gibraltar judge ruled that Chevron could proceed with a lawsuit seeking damages from DeLeon, whom Chevron believe should pay the price for providing the funds to Donziger to fight his dirty case. Bloomberg BusinessWeek stated that Chevron were keen to ‘punish those who aided Steven Donziger’s Ecuadorian oil pollution case.”
DeLeon is not sitting back and taking this however. After making millions in the gambling industry, he is having a little punt himself, by counter suing the giant oil and gas company claiming that their lawsuit has tarnished his reputation.
The former payment processing genius has insisted that he had no idea that Donziger was operating a fraudulent case, and that he ‘financed it in good faith.’ It’s believed that Donziger promised DeLeon 7% of any judgment proceeds in return for his $23m investment. That means DeLeon stood to double his own net worth if the case had been successful and Chevron paid out the $9.5bn.
DeLeon insists that as he knew nothing of any wrongdoings – and assumed that the Donziger was proceeding legally with the case – Chevron have no right to claim any damages from him. DeLeon also told the court that he was ‘at all times egregiously misled by Mr. Donziger,’ and was therefore also a victim of fraud.
Donziger also denies any wrongdoing.
The case continues.