NEW ORLEANS – Six weeks after BP PLC filed a motion to remove Patrick Juneau from his position as claims administrator responsible for managing billions of dollars in payouts to those claiming they lost income due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Juneau has responded with a motion on why he should remain.
In its September filing requesting the court remove Juneau as the head of the Court Supervised Settlement Program (CSSP), BP accused Juneau of a conflict of interest arising from his work for the State of Louisiana prior to being named claims administrator, as well as claiming that he lied to court appointed special investigation Louis Freeh when asked about his prior involvement in the case. BP also contends that Juneau expedited the claims of friendly plaintiffs attorneys and that his claims facility is beset by misconduct and corruption that led to the departure of five senior-level employees in the past year, including CSSP attorneys who are accused of taking kickbacks in exchange for expediting claims.
The request to remove Juneau as claims administrate by BP and Juneau’s response is just the latest chapter of an ongoing battle between the two parties that began in 2013 when BP found Juneau was improperly calculating business economic loss claims that were resulting in payments above and beyond those claimants deserved, if they deserved the payments at all. The U.S. Fifth District Court of Appeals later found Juneau was misinterpreting the settlement agreement concerning those claims and mandated he change the way the claims were calculated.
In response to BP’s allegations and its motion to remove him, Juneau accused BP of “revisionist” history and said in his filing that at least six members of BP’s legal staff and administrative team were aware of his work on behalf of the State of Louisiana prior to him being named claims administrator and that it was even reported in the New York Times.
“Mr. Juneau’s straightforward statement to BP and the PSC in 2012 was in all likelihood completely unnecessary, since his work was widely and publicly known,” the filing reads.
In fact, Juneau maintains that he communicated with BP’s legal staff several time over the course of his work for the state, which he maintains was limited to an advisory capacity in providing feedback to former Gulf Coast Claims Facility Chief Kenneth Feinberg and his legal work was not directly related to litigation. Feinberg has since filed a brief supporting BP’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court that the settlement agreement should be overturned in part due to Juneau’s handling of the claims process.
Juneau’s filing also suggests that BP’s motion to remove him is untimely, and is being made so that BP can gain an advantage in the case, because they knew about Juneau’s supposed conflict of interest far before the motion was filed.
“BP’s motion to disqualify Mr. Juneau, brought now after over two and one-half years of work as Claims Administrator based on facts it has known about for over four years, is a paradigm of untimeliness,” Juneau’s motion reads.
In response to BP’s claims that he lied to Freeh about his involvement in legal matters concerning the oil spill prior to being named claims administrator Juneau said that BP based those allegations on a comment made to Freeh that was taken out of context and was part of a larger statement regarding whether he had represented any claimants.
In response to accusations of corruption and misconduct within the ranks of the CSSP, Juneau said those arguments are “stale” and have already been handled. In fact, the filing says that Juneau should be commended for the way he handled the situation.
“There was no evidence that any claim related to the alleged misconduct had actually been manipulated or improperly paid. BP also dismisses Mr. Juneau’s prompt actions to investigate the allegations against CSSP staff by claiming credit for his prompt attention to these matters,” the filing reads.
To conclude the response to BP’s removal motion, Juneau said BP is overlooking a central factor in the issue.
“BP overlooks perhaps the single, most-critical reason that Mr. Juneau should not be removed as Claims Administrator: his knowledge and experience in developing and managing the CSSP through the most difficult of circumstances. Because Mr. Juneau has been involved with the CSSP from its inception, he has unparalleled institutional knowledge of how this 1,200-page settlement has been interpreted, implemented, and applied,” the filing reads.
In a statement, BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said Juneau’s filing in response to the motion for removal falls short of providing proper reasoning behind why the court should allow him to remain as claims administrator.
“Nothing in the briefs submitted by Mr. Juneau or the PSC (Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee) refutes the central fact that Mr. Juneau had an unwaivable conflict that by law should have prevented his appointment as Claims Administrator,” he said. “Given this conflict, as well as all of the evidence that continues to come to light concerning Mr. Juneau’s failure to ensure a claims process that is efficient, impartial, and free of corruption, he should be removed.”