NEW ORLEANS – U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier has again denied BP’s pleas to put a temporary stop on a claims process that provides monetary awards to those harmed by the 2010 BP Oil Spill.
BP first asked for a temporary stop order after Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau reported that there was an internal investigation into attorneys who were overseeing claims and allegedly were in a position to handle claims made by law firms they worked for or had other ties to.
In the fallout of that investigation two attorneys were suspended pending an investigation.
In their response earlier this week to BP’s latest request for a temporary halt Juneau provided the results of an internal investigation that Barbier said “found no credible evidence to support the allegations.”
However, an independent investigation by former FBI Director Louis Freeh is currently under way and was cited by BP as a reason for the request for a temporary stop to the claims process.
Another request by BP to halt the claims process of only businesses was also denied in which BP alleged Juneau was misinterpreting a plea agreement and was allowing businesses with little or no recognizable losses to collect payments.
Barbier refused to hear the issue due to the plea agreement between BP and the plaintiffs’ steering committee that was made in his court which he found to be binding.
BP then took its concerns to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth District which has not yet ruled.
Immediately following the appeals court hearing, BP set up a fraud hotline urging those with known instances of fraud to report them.
Within a few weeks BP reported it had received a call from someone who alleged knowledge of a claims administrators in the Mobile, Ala. office who was steering claims towards people who were providing them with kickbacks.
BP alleged the call revealed “systemic fraud” within the claims process and made the latest request for a temporary stoppage to the claims process. Another investigation revealed two appeals panelist had ties to law firms that were responsible for claims filed with the office and a third appeals panelist’s wife was submitting claims to the office.
However, Juneau’s office filed a response in which it denied responsibility for appointing the attorneys in question and that payment had not been made in two cases of the appeals panelist whose law firms filed claims, and that one had since cut financial ties to the law firm in question while the other was in the process of doing so. The other panelist’s wife’s law firm was found to have received claims payments, but none that came in front of the appeals panel. The panelist subsequently stepped down.
Barbier said in his decision that all of the matters were handled adequately by the court and he did not “find this to be a basis upon which to suspend the entire claims payment program.”