UPDATE 2-Chevron settlement could aid Patton Boggs merger: lawyers
(Adds comment by Patton Boggs, statement by Ecuadorean villagers and additional settlement detail)
By Casey Sullivan
NEW YORK May 7 (Reuters) - In a deal that could pave the way for a major law firm merger, Washington law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs has agreed to pay $15 million to settle claims by Chevron Corp that it tried to enforce an $18 billion pollution judgment in Ecuador against the oil company it knew was obtained through fraud and corruption.
Chevron said on Wednesday that Patton Boggs had also expressed regret for its involvement in the Ecuadorean case, from which it would remove itself. In exchange, Chevron said it would drop claims of fraud, deceit and malicious prosecution against the 300-lawyer firm.
"We are pleased that Patton Boggs is ending its association with the fraudulent and extortionate Ecuador litigation scheme." Hewitt Pate, Chevron general counsel, said in a statement.
Ecuadorean villagers who had sued Chevron for polluting its rainforest released a statement condemning Patton Boggs' "betrayal" and said they were exploring their legal options against the law firm.
The settlement on Wednesday marks Chevron's latest victory in the battle it has waged to make sure the judgment in Ecuador was deemed fraudulent and not enforceable.
It also comes at a crucial time for the beleaguered Patton Boggs, which has been in merger talks with the larger 1,300-lawyer firm Squire Sanders since February after seeing revenue wane and partners defect.
"Everyone is breathing a sigh of relief because (the settlement) paves the way for the merger to go forward," said one former Patton Boggs lawyer. Continuación...