September 24, 2013 in Business

BP again seeks halt to claims payments

Michael Kunzelman Associated Press
 

NEW ORLEANS – BP on Monday renewed its request for a federal judge to temporarily suspend settlement payments to Gulf Coast residents and businesses following its massive 2010 oil spill, citing a scathing report on alleged misconduct within the court-supervised program.

In a court filing, BP attorneys said the report issued earlier this month by former FBI Director Louis Freeh shows the settlement program is plagued by problems that need to be fixed.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier already has rejected two previous requests by BP to suspend settlement payments, but both rulings preceded Freeh’s Sept. 6 report.

Freeh concluded that top members of claims administrator Patrick Juneau’s staff engaged in conduct that was improper, unethical and possibly criminal, but said he didn’t see a need to shut down settlement payments.

BP lawyers questioned whether Barbier would have authorized Juneau to begin processing and paying claims more than a year ago if he had known the settlement program would be “riven by conflicts of interest,” lacked adequate anti-fraud controls and operated in a “grossly inefficient and over-costly manner.”

“While BP does not presume to know for certain, it submits that the answer most likely would have been an emphatic ‘no,’ ” company lawyers wrote. “Instead, the Settlement Program would have been instructed to fix its problems first, before being allowed to open its doors to the claims of class members.”

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