Total to pay $15 mln to settle US false claims case

WASHINGTON Wed Feb 22, 2012 4:43pm EST

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WASHINGTON Feb 22 (Reuters) - Units of French energy concern Total have agreed to pay $15 million to settle U.S. allegations that they underpaid royalties on natural gas from federal and Indian leases, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday.

The settlement resolves various allegations under the U.S. False Claims Act including that Total entities reported processed gas as unprocessed to reduce the royalty payments and made improper deductions.

Companies that lease federal and Indian lands to produce natural gas are required to pay royalties on what is extracted. The settlement follows a whistleblower lawsuit.

A Total representative was not immediately available for comment.

Last year BP Plc agreed to pay $20.5 million and Royal Dutch Shell agreed to pay $2.3 million to settle similar allegations, also brought to light by the same whistleblower Harrold Wright.

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