BY: Follow @lachlan
A public relations firm’s legally suspect work on behalf of the Ecuadorian government included hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to talent agencies representing prominent celebrities who traveled to the country to bemoan environmental damage there.
The firm, MCSquared, organized junkets to Ecuador last year, where actors Danny Glover and Mia Farrow promoted an Ecuadorian lawsuit against oil company Chevron over alleged environmental contamination.
According to documents filed with the Justice Department last week, MCSquared paid more than half-a-million dollars to two prominent talent agencies to recruit celebrities for the events.
Those payments were part of a $6.4 million PR contract on behalf of the government of Ecuador. MCSquared undertook much of the work last year, but only notified the DOJ, as is required by federal law, in July after the Washington Free Beacon reported that it had failed to disclose its contract with that government.
Ecuador hired the firm specifically to go after Chevron, which has resisted paying a $9 billion judgment the company claims was obtained by fraud and corruption on the part of American plaintiffs’ attorneys.
MCSquared filed an amended Foreign Agent Registration Act disclosure on Wednesday detailing nearly $2 million in disbursements related to work attacking Chevron and promoting efforts to enforce the judgment in other countries where the company has assets.
The firm’s payments to the two talent agencies represented more than a quarter of its total itemized disbursements associated with its contract with Ecuador.
MCSquared also touted the work of former U.S. financial regulator and University of Missouri professor Bill Black, who authored a report called “The Ecuadorian Miracle” that lauded the supposed successes of the country’s socialist economic system.
Black spoke at the Summit for Responsible Journalism (known by its Spanish acronym, CUPRE) in March, a state-sponsored conference in Ecuador designed “to promote a transparent and honest journalism without restrictions,” according to a MCSquared press release.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa also invited Black to a ceremonial changing of the guard in the country’s capital.
The firm’s FARA filing reveals that it paid more than $64,000 for “speakers” at the conference. Black confirmed that the firm paid his travel expenses, but said that that was the extent of his financial compensation.
Other large expenses on MCSquared’s FARA filing include $157,000 for “tourism spots,” $167,000 to put on a New York City event featuring Correa, and nearly $19,000 associated with a journalism conference at Columbia University.
MCSquared did not respond to a request for comment by press time.