A public relations firm representing the government of Ecuador sued Sharon Stone in federal court on Tuesday alleging that the actress absconded with a large speaking fee for work promoting that government’s long-running legal and political battle against oil giant Chevron.
The complaint, filed by New York-based MCSquared PR, alleges that Stone and the American Talent Bureau, a speaking agency that represented her, accepted $275,000 to attend an anti-Chevron event in Ecuador last year but failed to appear as promised.
The lawsuit reveals additional details about MCSquared’s pricey work for the Ecuadorian government. It inked a $6.4 million contract with the government in 2013 to attack Chevron in furtherance of the government’s attempts to collect a multi-billion dollar Ecuadorian judgment against the company.
According to documents filed with the Justice Department, MCSquared paid more than $500,000 to two talent agencies to recruit celebrities to speak out against Chevron.
Actress Mia Farrow confirmed that she was paid for her junket to the country, though she said the sum she received for that speaking engagement was less than the $188,000 that MCSquared reported paying her talent agency.
MCSquared paid $330,000 to the American Program Bureau in 2013 and 2014, documents show. That agency represents actor Danny Glover, who has been active in the anti-Chevron campaign.
The PR firm’s lawsuit, first reported by the New York Daily News, reveals that it recruited an additional three celebrities through APB: Stone, anti-energy activist and writer Antonia Juhasz, and Alexandra Cousteau, the granddaughter of French explorer Jacques Cousteau.
MCSquared alleges that APB canceled Stone’s appearance at an event in Ecuador, scheduled for April 2014, but never returned the $275,000 it was paid for the event.
The firm’s agreement with Stone and APB was never put in writing, admitted MCSquared president Maria Garay in an affidavit accompanying the complaint. However, the firm "entered into an oral agreement with APB and Stone (through her agent APB) for Stone to make a three-day appearance in Ecuador from April 7-9, 2014."
Two hours before Stone was scheduled to arrive in Ecuador, MCSquared claims, an APB representative contacted the firm saying she had been hospitalized in Brazil and would not be appearing.
MCSquared says the agency never returned the hefty sum it paid for Stone’s appearance. APB did not respond to a request for comment.
Stone was scheduled to headline an event billed under the title, "The Devastation Big Oil Left Behind in the Ecuadorian Amazon."
Environmentalist plaintiffs sued Chevron decades ago for alleged environmental contamination in Ecuador. They won a $9 billion judgment that an Ecuadorian court subsequently doubled.
The company has no assets in Ecuador, and the South American government, led by leftist President Rafael Correa, has actively promoted plaintiffs’ efforts to enforce the judgment in countries where Chevron assets can be seized.
A U.S. federal court ruled last year that the judgment was obtained by fraud and coercion. Chevron maintains that the judgment cannot be enforced in the Untied States. It is also fighting similar proceedings in Canada and Argentina.
The government of Ecuador hired MCSquared in 2013 to increase public pressure on Chevron. However, the firm did not notify DOJ of its work, as required by the Foreign Agent Registration Act, until July 2014—more than a year after it was legally obligated to do so.
That has led to questions about its compliance with federal laws governing foreign propagandists and to an investigation in Ecuador brought by a member of the country’s national assembly.
MCSquared seems to relish allegations of impropriety. The firm "has reached international notoriety for its unorthodox yet successful approach to public relations," its website states.