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Federal appeals court upholds verdict for Chevron in Nigeria protest deaths

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Friday upheld [opinion, PDF] a jury verdict clearing Chevron [corporate website] of wrongdoing in the 1998 deaths of two protesters occupying a Nigerian oil platform operated by the company. Protesters Arolika Irowarinun and Bola Oyinbo, were killed in May 1998 on Parabe Oil Platform and several others were injured when Nigerian government security forces, called in by Chevron Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of Chevron, opened fire on the protesters. The families of Irowarinun and Oyinbo, as well as several injured protesters, subsequently filed a lawsuit under the Alien Torts Act [text], and Nigerian and California law in 1999 in the US District Court for the Northern District Court of California [official website] against three California-based companies owned by Chevron. During the trial, much controversy centered around whether the protests were violent and if Nigerian forces were acting in self-defense when they shot at the protesters. The jury found that Chevron was not liable for the deaths, and, on Friday, the appellate court upheld that decision. The appellate court ruled that there were no errors in jury instructions given by the trial court, the trial court properly dismissed the Alien Tort Act claims for wrongful death and survival and the Torture Victims Protection Act [text] does not apply to corporations.

In November 2007, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] agreed to a $30 million settlement [JURIST report] of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges against Chevron in connection with the oil company's alleged involvement in a scheme to exchange illegal payments to Iraqi officials under the now-defunct UN Oil-for-Food program [official website; JURIST news archive]. In August 2005, Unocal shareholders approved [JURIST report] a Chevron takeover. The approval of the nearly $18 billion purchase came after months of negotiations and contentious competition [JURIST report] from China National Offshore Oil Company Ltd. (CNOOC) [official website], an oil company connected to the Chinese government trying to secure resources for China's booming economy.

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