BATON ROUGE — A legal watchdog has
called out the legal system in Louisiana after dozens of people have
been convicted for defrauding the BP's Deepwater Horizon fund.
convictions have come after dozens of people filed fake claims
against the organization in hopes of obtaining funds illegally.
Melissa Landry, executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch, said
the fund alone, which was set up after BP reached a $20.8 billion
civil settlement to help citizens who suffered damage from the
largest oil spill in the nation’s history, had inconsistencies from
“There’s no question the settlement fund was
plagued by fraud and internal corruption seemingly from day one,”
Landry told the Louisiana Record. “Just as troubling were
the policies set up by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier and his
court-appointed claims administrator Patrick Juneau, which allowed
far too many class members who were not directly impacted by the
spill to profit from it.”
She said the criminal exploits of this
caliber have become far too common in Louisiana and almost make the
state synonymous with illegal activity. Landry also pointed out that
this pattern could bring a major negative impact to the financial
aspect of Louisiana as well as its current and potential businesses.
“In many ways, this systemic abuse only further exacerbates the
notion that legal corruption prevails in Louisiana, giving more
businesses pause before moving or expanding their operations here.
However, the implications of this case extend far beyond BP and the
Bayou State,” she said.
Landry suggested that it seems the
damage could spread beyond Louisiana.
“If the abuse of our legal
system is allowed to continue without rebuke from our courts or our
lawmakers, Louisiana-style jackpot justice could be exported to the
rest of the country and there will be no end to the lawyers lining up
for 'free money,' should there be another big event like this in the
future,” Landry said.
While the nearly 200 people who have been
convicted for the fraudulent activities are making headlines, Landry
has pointed out that the citizens who truly needed the help have
possibly been forgotten and even overlooked as the number of those
with fake claims seems to continue to increase.
most troubling aspect of what has happened in the aftermath of the
Deepwater disaster is that so much fraud and abuse corrupted and
clogged up the system that many legitimate victims were left waiting
in the wings for far too long,” she said. “We cannot and should
not let that ever happen again.”
So far, more than 180 people
have been convicted for filing or being involved with filing
fraudulent claims with the BP Deepwater Horizon Fund. But there have
been at least 260 fraudulent cases across more than 10 states. The
fake filings have amounted to almost $27 million, the Louisiana