03 July 2013 19:05 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--UK energy giant BP is “very pleased” that an investigator has been appointed to probe alleged misconduct by a lawyer who was assigned to a compensation programme related the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to a statement provided by the company to ICIS on Wednesday.
“We believe that Judge [Louis] Freeh’s experience on the federal bench and as director of the [Federal Bureau of Investigation] make him ideally suited to conduct a thorough investigation into the recent allegations of unethical and potentially criminal behaviour within the programme,” said Geoff Morrell, vice president of US communications at BP.
In December, US District Judge Carl Barbier approved an economic- and property-damage settlement between BP and several people and businesses who sued the company following the spill. The company had estimated that claims would total $7.8bn (€6.0bn).
BP asked the court in March to review claims administrator Patrick Juneau’s interpretation of the Court Supervised Settlement Program (CSSP), saying payouts had totalled over $8.7bn. Currently, BP’s claims information site says that individual and business payouts have totalled over $9.5bn as of 31 May.
In April, Barbier denied BP’s injunction request to halt certain payments and upheld Juneau’s interpretation of the programme – a ruling BP is appealing at a hearing scheduled for 8 July.
However, Juneau said in June that he had opened his own internal investigation of alleged misconduct by one of his staff attorneys.
Lionel Sutton resigned after being accused of referring claims to a Louisiana law firm in exchange for a share of subsequent settlement payments.
On Tuesday, the court appointed Freeh to perform an independent external investigation of any other possible ethics violations or misconduct within the CSSP.
Freeh is to examine and evaluate the internal compliance programme and anti-corruption controls, as well as make any recommendations on the CSSP’s design or implementation.
“Certain recent events have arisen that led to the resignation of a staff attorney at the CSSP,” Barbier said in his order. “An internal investigation by the CSSP is underway. However, the court has concluded that in order to ensure the integrity of the program for the benefit of the parties and the public, an independent, external investigation of this matter should be performed.”
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