On November 4th, Joseph Kohn, the name partner in the Philadelphia law firm of Kohn, Swift & Graf, came to the New York U.S. District Court where the RICO case of Chevron v. Donziger is being tried, took the stand as a witness for Chevron and against Steven Donziger.
The trouble is, at least for Donziger, that Joseph Kohn was his employer and his friend. But one of the few things anyone enjoys is being lied to, especially by a friend, and it should come as no surprise that Mr. Kohn turned on his friend.
You see, Joseph Kohn invested over $6 million in Steven Donziger’s legal pursuit of the great whale Chevron, and all the way buying Donziger’s claim that the American Oil Company was responsible for pollution in the Amazon River Delta. From 2006 to 2009, Kohn, Swift & Graf also paid Donziger himself $1.1 million in fees and expenses, or about just over $300,000 a year over that period of time.
But then Joseph Kohn backed out in 2009, and did so because he conducted his own investigation of what Donziger was doing with his money.
The late Edward Bennett Williams, famed lawyer and former owner of the Washington (the team that has that name some hate) Redskins, once said that the best client for a lawyer was a rich man who was scared. In the case of Steven Donziger, that saying should be amended to read that the best client for a lawyer is a scared lawyer with rich friends.
Under questioning by Donziger, who is representing himself with help from a team of other lawyers, Kohn said “There was a frustration on our part, and in reference to discussions about financing in 2009. “Budgets were frequently not followed.” But Kohn also said that what caused him and the firm to back out of further financing of the lawsuit was that he learned that the so-called expert witness report was ghost-written and falsified.
Kohn said he demanded that Donziger “come clean” but instead Steven did not. Kohn said in his declaration that “Mr. Donziger did not respond directly to that. Instead he looked down at his shoes and said someone on the Ecuadorian team ‘may’ have provided ‘some’ documentation” to the expert “and if it came out, it could be embarrassing for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs’ team.”
Kohn also said: “Mr. Donziger lied to me about a number of aspects of the Ecuadorian litigation. … He obtained millions of dollars in litigation funding from Kohn, Swift & Graf on the basis of material misrepresentations and material omissions about the Ecuador litigation.” And if your thinking that Steven Donziger may be sued by Kohn for damages, you’d be correct.