A 22-year battle between environmental activists and oil giant Chevron (CVX) over pollution in the Amazon jungle took a strange turn this week, with a New York public relations firm involved in the fight filing suit against actress Sharon Stone.
MCSquared, a PR outfit in Brooklyn, New York, is suing Stone and her talent agency for allegedly failing to show up for paid anti-Chevron appearances in Ecuador.
The federal lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in New York, accuses the star of movies such as "Basic Instinct" and "Casino" of backing out of several scheduled appearances last year for which her talent agency, American Program Bureau (APB), was paid $275,000. MCSquared is seeking to recoup at least $352,000, including legal costs and other expenses.
MCSquared claims it spent $77,420.09 to comply with what the suit calls Stone's "diva-like requests, including first-class airfare tickets and luxury hotel suites for herself and her three companions," in addition to hair and makeup services and personal guides.
As part of its work for the Republic of Ecuador, MCSquared had an oral agreement with APB and Stone for the actress to spend three days in Ecuador in April 2014, with the actress lined up to meet with high-level government officials of the South American country, including its president and vice president, the suit contends.
Two hours before Stone was expected in Quito, Ecuador, APB canceled Stone's appearance due to health issues, with multiple media outlets reporting Stone to be hospitalized in Brazil later that day, the suit said.
"Sharon Stone was served with the complaint [Wednesday], and she will have 21 days to file an answer. APB is in the process of being served," said Rodrigo Da Silva, the attorney for MCSquared, in an email. "We will prosecute this lawsuit aggressively, and we expect to obtain a judgment against both APB and Stone for the full amount demanded in the complaint plus interest."
APB, which did not return requests for comment, lists Stone among the potential speakers for hire on its website, with its biography of the actress touting her "support and involvement with organization that serve the lesbian, gay and HIV/AIDS community," but not environmental activism.
MCSquared last year paid $188,000 to another actress, Mia Farrow, to travel to Ecuador to speak on its behalf in its long-running battle with Chevron, according to published reports. Farrow on Sept. 17, 2014, tweeted that she was paid to speak on the issue, but disputed the reported size of her payment, and added: "I wouldn't have gone if I didn't believe in the cause." The tweet was deleted later that day.
In a regulatory filing, MCSquared said it received $6.4 million from Ecuador's government to conduct a global campaign against Chevron in 2013 and 2014, with Ecuador's government demanding that Chevron pay billions to restore polluted areas near the Andes mountains.
The legal sparring between Ecuador and Chevron dates back to the 1960s, when Texaco started drilling for oil in small South American country. After Texaco halted operations in Ecuador three decades later, residents sued the oil producer over pollution, ultimately winning a $9.5 billion judgment against the company. Chevron, which acquired Texaco in 2001, has denied any liability.
In March 2014, a federal judge in New York blocked the Ecuadorean court's decision against Chevron, ruling that it relied on doctored evidence and bribery. Under appeal, the decision left up in the air whether the court would ever enforce the Ecuadorian verdict on behalf of thousands of people living in the rain forest who allegedly were affected by reckless oil production.
MCSquared's suit against Stone shows that Ecuador's claims against Chevron are unfounded, the oil company said.
"The fact that the Republic of Ecuador's PR firm is suing Sharon Stone for not participating in a government-sponsored anti-Chevron stunt is further evidence that this case is nothing but a fraud," Chevron spokesman Morgan Crinklaw told CBS MoneyWatch in an email. "From paid celebrities to bribed court officials to the ghostwritten judgment, the case against Chevron in Ecuador is a well-funded and manufactured extortion scheme."