NEW ORLEANS – BP is placing a full-page advertisement in three of the nation’s largest newspapers today as the company mounts an aggressive campaign to challenge what could be billions of dollars in settlement payouts to businesses following its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The ad, scheduled to run in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, accuses “trial lawyers and some politicians” of encouraging Gulf Coast businesses to submit thousands of claims for inflated or nonexistent losses.
“Whatever you think about BP, we can all agree that it’s wrong for anyone to take money they don’t deserve,” the ad says. “And it’s unfair to everyone in the Gulf – commercial fishermen, restaurant and hotel owners, and all the other hard-working people who’ve filed legitimate claims for real losses.”
In April, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier upheld a court-appointed claims administrator’s interpretation of the multibillion dollar settlement it reached with a group of plaintiffs’ attorneys.
The London-based oil giant appealed the decision. A three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear the case on July 8.
BP’s ad claims Barbier’s ruling “interprets the settlement in a way no one intended” and results in settlement payouts to businesses that didn’t suffer any spill-related losses.
“Even though we’re appealing the misinterpretation of the agreement, we want you to know that the litigation over this issue has not in any way changed our commitment to the Gulf,” it says.
BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said the newspaper ad is consistent with the company’s efforts to keep the public informed of its economic and environmental restoration efforts.
“It explains the actions we are taking to defend the contract we agreed to and to assure the integrity of the claims process,” he said in a statement. “But it is also intended to make clear that BP remains as committed today as it was three years ago to doing the right thing. While we are actively litigating the payments by the claims program for inflated and even fictitious losses, we remain fully committed to paying legitimate claims due to the accident.”
Barbier appointed Lafayette-based attorney Patrick Juneau to administer the settlement program. BP has accused Juneau of trying to rewrite the terms of the settlement and claims he has made decisions that expose the company to what could be billions of dollars in fictitious claims.
But the judge upheld the claims administrator’s interpretation of settlement terms that govern how businesses’ pre- and post-spill revenue and expenses are used to calculate their awards.