“I hope you do well!” The phrase, which drew applause on Rafael Correa’s Saturday’s broadcasts, cost millions. The officials of the Attorney General and the external lawyers hired for the defense of the State in the courts and international arbitration forums remember it as a headache.
Of the 29 arbitrations active outside the country, 20 are lawsuits against the country and nine, cases in which it acts as plaintiff.
To advise on both roles, the Attorney General’s Office -which assumes the legal representation of the State- has a current contract with 14 law firms: Estudio Luis Echecopar García SRL, Lalive, Dechert LLP, Curtis, Foley Hoag, Winston & Strawn LLP, Baker Botts, Latham & Watkins, Perez Llorca, Lovill, Brigard & Urrutia, K & L Gates, Squire Patton Boggs and Baker & Mackenzie.
With a cut to October 12 of this year, its services cost the State $ 98.5 million, of which $ 80 million were exclusively to defend themselves. The amounts only correspond to active cases, because if you add those that concluded the budget for lawyers exceeds $ 350 million.
“There was no oil company hearing, for example, that does not start with an extract of a Saturday broadcast, the ‘that is nice'”, told this newspaper from the United States a lawyer from one of the major firms hired.
Although the sole statement of the former president – and in some cases, of his former employees – in theory did not constitute proof and lacked legal value in the process, it did enter as an aggravating circumstance in favor of the plaintiffs.
While in Ecuador the Saturday’s broadcast became orders for the subordinates of the regime, abroad “had a serious impact on the courts that the lawyers had to neutralize.”
With the arrival of Correa to power, in 2007, demands skyrocketed. That year there were 13 arbitrations and one trial in the United States.
However, by January 2018, 115 cases had already been handled: 24 investment arbitrations, 12 commercial arbitrations, 32 international trials, 10 trials before the Andean Court of Justice, 35 notifications of controversy, 1 case in a Combined Board of Disputes and 1 investigation before the Secretariat of the Andean Community.
“The orientation of the commercial and foreign policy, added to the violation of the Bilateral Investment Treaties or the same Ecuadorian laws by the authorities of that time provoked chaos; for making a simile: they asked us to defend the State from a murder with the dead man in sight and the hot pistol, smoking, “recounts another foreign lawyer consulted for this note.
The hiring of law firms for international courts and arbitrations requires a lot of money, above all, because of the level of representation of the plaintiffs. “It is difficult to explain it within Ecuador, but outside the defense is very complex not only because of the level of the arbitrators, but because the companies – like Chevron or Perenco – hire the best lawyers in the world.”
Lawsuits in previous regime
With data provided by the Attorney General, 20 lawsuits against the State 16 were filed during the Correa administration.
The other four correspond to the period of the current president Lenin Moreno. There are the cases OCP, Tame, Petroecuador Panama and Gente Oil.
These last two are special. The one raises a demand of $ 11,450 million against the State (that is, 82.3% of the total) and the second – for the Singue field – part of a special examination of the Comptroller’s Office that linked former Vice President Jorge Glas and , for several officials, could be seen as a politician.
At the moment, the demands abroad amount to $ 13,653.6 million, of which awards have already been dictated that force Ecuador to pay $ 126.1 million. The figures are not definitive, because there are still processes in progress or without amounts. The challenge, for now, is a mandatory way. Like the hiring of lawyers abroad.
98 million dollars add up with cases in which the country is demanding. (I)