LONDON, June 21 Oil company BP called on
Friday for an inquiry into an allegation a lawyer working for
the administrator of compensation payments for the Gulf of
Mexico oil spill referred claims to a New Orleans law firm in
exchange for a share of subsequent settlement payments.
The allegation, reported by the U.S. news agency Associated
Press, comes ahead of a July 8 hearing where BP is appealing
against the way the claims are being administered by the
court-appointed payouts administrator, Patrick Juneau, and his
Juneau was appointed last year to decide which people and
companies should get money from BP - and how much - for the 2010
Gulf of Mexico disaster under a settlement agreed between the
company and a group of claimants. BP now disputes the way the
settlement is being interpreted.
The British oil major's costs from the spill, which killed
11 men and became the United States' worst offshore
environmental disaster, are already in the tens of billions of
dollars. In addition to the clean-up costs, fines and
compensation, an ongoing court case could add billions more.
BP says the payments are more generous than the settlement
intended but has so far failed to convince U.S. authorities to
stop the payouts and conduct a review.
Based on payouts made so far, compensation claims at the
current rate could exhaust the BP funds set aside for them as
early as next year.
The AP report cited an email from the lawyer at the centre
of the allegation, confirming that he had been suspended because
of it. "I have not been made aware of the substance of the
allegation or the status of the allegation", the report cited
AP also reported that Juneau delivered a copy of a report on
the subject to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier during a meeting
in his chambers attended by lawyers for BP and the team of
private attorneys who brokered the settlement.
According to AP, the report said the head of security for
Juneau's office received a complaint that the staff attorney had
referred claims to a New Orleans law firm in exchange for
portions of subsequent settlement payments. The lawyer allegedly
filed those claims before he went to work for Juneau.
In London, BP declined to comment beyond a statement from
its head of U.S. communications, Geoff Morrell, calling for an
"We are very concerned about these allegations and believe
that only a comprehensive and independent investigation will
ensure the integrity of the claims process," the statement said.
A spokesman for Juneau could not immediately be reached on