A common theme right now in Louisiana is legalized extortion. If you need to make a quick dollar, have no fear; a plaintiff attorney will find you.
Whether we are referencing the ongoing legacy lawsuits, the newly established levee board lawsuit or the BP spill settlements, money grabs can be seen happening all over Louisiana.
Specifically, concerning BP, since the Court Supervised Settlement Program (CSSP) was establish, over $4 billion has been paid to law firms who are seeking to exploit from the fund. Thus far, lawyers have received more funds than the restaurants, bars, hotels and seafood processors.
These law firms receive an average offer of $812,000 through the settlement program. To be more specific, this is three times more money than the average offer made to all other businesses. If this doesn’t sound like a money grab, I am not sure what does?
As a side note to the over $4 billion that the plaintiff’s lawyers have already received, the lawyers who are members of this court-appointed committee have the potential to share in a pot of an additional $1 billion for their work in conjunction with the CSSP.
The information mentioned above is a small snapshot of the countless individuals and companies that have sued or that has been awarded billions of dollars in spill money, and do not even conduct business in or near the Gulf of Mexico.
However, the dollar figures you will not hear in the public are those that BP is investing in the Gulf region. BP has already spent $25 billion in claims payments and response, clean up and restoration costs. Over the last five years, BP has invested more dollars in the U.S. economy than any other oil and gas company. To date, BP has invested more than $55 billion in oil, gas, renewables and other technologies in the last five years.
Concerning jobs for our nation, BP supports 20,000 direct jobs and more than 260,000 jobs through support roles connected to BP’s business activities. Specific to Louisiana, BP directly employees 600 Louisiana residents with more than 7,600 jobs connected to BP’s Louisiana activities.
Most importantly, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Federal On-Scene Coordinator (FOSC) has declared Removal Actions Deemed Complete for 4,248 of the 4,376 of the shoreline in the effected areas.
Whether discussing the outrageous BP settlement payouts, legacy lawsuits or the levee board suit, the broader problem is the same. The popular trend in Louisiana is to sue the oil and gas industry no matter if you have damage or not.
Again, this is nothing new as trial lawyers in Louisiana and around the nation have made billions of dollars through this style of legalized extortion. BP is forced to contribute to this litigious environment. This will only harm the future of our state.
If Louisiana is to remain an economically competitive state, then a sue-happy business climate for our companies to operate within is certainly not the answer.
Don Briggs is president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.