NEW ORLEANS – A filing last night by BP PLC indicates evidence that the claims administrator in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement program logged over 500 hours of work on behalf of the state before being named as a special master by the court.
BP says that revelation is evidence of a direct conflict of interest that bolsters its position that Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau should be removed as special master.
In the filing, BP says that documents secured by a third party through a public records request show Juneau’s work on behalf of the state was an undisclosed conflict of interest and put him in a de facto position of opposition against the oil company.
Included in BP’s claims are that Juneau advocated on behalf of the state to his direct predecessor, former Gulf Coast Claims Facility administrator Kenneth Feinberg, that industry data should be substituted for evidence of damages. Juneau also allegedly argued that claimants should be compensated for psychological injuries and that evidence of loss should not be limited to tax returns and financial statements, but that similar documents should be accepted.
BP first filed a request in September asking the court to remove Juneau as claims administrator that was based in part on the conflict of interest inherent in the Juneau David law firm’s contract with the state, which BP claims Juneau never fully disclosed to the court in writing.
Yesterday's filing was made by BP in response to Juneau’s claims that it was a well-known fact that his law firm had a consulting contract to provide assistance to the State of Louisiana.
According to state records, BP included in its initial filing, the Juneau David law firm was first contracted by the state on July 2, 2010 for $175,000 to “provide advice and counsel” when the settlement facility was operated under Feinberg. The contract later grew to $275,000 after an extension granted in March 2011.
Invoices gathered through a public records request released along with BP’s most recent filing reveal Juneau submitted invoices for the months of July 2010 through June 2011 for a total of 548.6 hours, amounting to $178,295. During a one month period in February 2011, Juneau logged 98.6 hours on the contract including hours billed in all but four out of 28 days in the month at a personal rate of $325 per hour, plus expenses.
The contract ended abruptly on July 21, 2011 – only four days before plaintiff’s lawyers in the BP case filed a motion to have the court appoint a special master to succeed Feinberg.
Juneau’s account of his involvement in the Deepwater Horizon case in a sworn deposition with special master Louis Freeh, who has been charged with rooting out corruption within Juneau's office, appears to gloss over his role in the case prior to being named claims administrator.
In the deposition on Aug. 1, 2013, Juneau told Freeh his involvement in the Deepwater Horizon case prior to being named special master was limited to reading media accounts of the oil spill.
“Now, I knew, from reading the newspaper — I didn’t have any involvement in anything in the spill. I didn’t represent any claimants in the spill, wasn’t representing any defendants in the spill, had really had no connection with the spill per se,” Juneau said in the deposition.
However, in his response to BP’s motion, Juneau said that all parties were aware of the contract and 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.
In contrast, BP denies that Juneau ever made the company aware of the nature of his work for the state prior to being named claims administrator.
Geoff Morrell, a spokesman for BP, said Juneau and the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, the group of attorneys who engineered the settlement with BP, went to great lengths to justify Juneau’s continued position as claims administrator in light of the findings.
“Mr. Juneau served as an attorney adverse to BP in connection with private civil claims in the [Deepwater Horizon] matter – an unwaivable conflict that disqualifies him from his current position. As BP's motion to supplement the record shows, recently uncovered public documents, including emails and billing records, reveal that Mr. Juneau acted on behalf of private claimants and actively participated in preparing briefs opposed to BP,” he said.
Morrell said the revelation of the amount and type of work Juneau did on behalf of the state is damning.
“This evidence conflicts with statements Mr. Juneau has made to BP, Judge Freeh and the Court in his continued effort to minimize and skirt the true nature of his advocacy on behalf of the State of Louisiana,” he said. "Mr. Juneau should be removed as Claims Administrator."
Juneau did not respond to a request for comment on this story.