NEW ORLEANS - Three members of a court-selected panel that reviews appeals of BP oil spill settlement payments are tied to law firms that have made their own loss claims under the settlement.
Settlement administrator Patrick Juneau, who was appointed by BP but has been accused by the oil giant of “hijacking” the process and paying “absurd” awards, said in a court filing Monday that the findings of possible conflicts have caused a delay in appeals involving the three panelists.
The new revelations come amid BP’s rising complaints of fraud inside Juneau’s settlement offices. Two top officials in the settlement program, who have since resigned, continue to be investigated by former FBI Director Louis Freeh. Meanwhile, another BP complaint about fraud inside the Mobile, Ala. claims center was determined to be unfounded Monday by Juneau’s head of security, former FBI Special Agent in Charge David Welker.
Juneau noted in his filing Monday that he has nothing to do with the selection of appeal panelists, who are nominated by BP and the plaintiffs and selected by the court. But Juneau said he still looked into possible conflicts of interest for the three panelists with ties to law firms that have their own loss claims. BP has gone on the offensive recently in paid advertisements attacking lawyers who are making big bucks representing other claimants but also claim to have lost money in 2010 due to the spill.
He also said in a court filing Monday that the first of three panelists with conflicts withdrew from his law firm when he learned it had filed a claim, which allowed him to remain on the appeal panel. The second panelist is looking to see if he can withdraw from any financial interest in his law firm in order to remain a panelist, Juneau said. And the third panelist’s wife is in a law firm that made a claim, so he has resigned from the pool of appeal panelists.