NEW ORLEANS -- Federal Judge Carl Barbier denied BP’s motion to stop settlement payments based on its allegations of fraud at the court-supervised settlement program’s offices in Mobile, Ala.
Barbier also said the court has sufficiently addressed BP’s complaints about appeals panelists who have ties to law firms that made their own loss claims, and those conflicts are no basis for stopping payments.
But BP disagrees and said a deeper investigation of the settlement program's internal controls is warranted.
BP has been trying for months to stop the payments under its own multi-billion-dollar settlement with private plaintiffs, saying that the claims administrator it selected, Patrick Juneau, had “hijacked” the settlement payment process.
“We’re pleased that the Court relied on actual facts and evidence in reaching its conclusion -- for the second time -- and not the unsupported hyperbole and speculation propagated by BP,” said the lead plaintiffs in the settlement, Steve Herman and Jim Roy. “We’re glad that the Court-Supervised Settlement Program will continue to compensate all eligible claimants according to the objective and transparent formulas spelled out in the agreement.”
Barbier has repeatedly rebuffed those efforts, telling BP that they agreed to the payments and have no cause to stop them now. But BP has been unrelenting, using paid advertisements and supportive national media commentators to blast Juneau and the attorneys who have filed their own loss claims and also encouraging people to report cases of fraud.
It was a call to BP’s fraud hotline that triggered BP’s latest effort to stop the payments. But Juneau’s in-house fraud watchdog, former FBI Special Agent in Charge David Welker, found inconsistencies in the informant’s story and no evidence that employees at the Mobile assistance center had done anything wrong.
Meanwhile, separate BP allegations of fraud against two of Juneau’s top assistants forced their resignation and triggered an ongoing investigation by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.
"As we await the completion of this broad investigation, we continue to believe a temporary pause in payments is warranted and we will continue to bring to the attention of the (settlement program) and the Court any evidence of fraud or improprieties that surface and could potentially taint the settlement process or lead to the payment of undeserving claimants," said BP spokesman Geoff Morrell. "BP is reviewing its options with respect to the district court's decision today."