Citgo Petroleum bolsters legal defenses with ex-BP lawyer

FILE PHOTO: PDVSA's U.S. unit Citgo Petroleum refinery is pictured in Sulphur, Louisiana, U.S., June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman/File Photo

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Citgo Petroleum Corp this week named a former BP lawyer to take on the company’s top legal job as it faces creditors seeking to seize shares in the U.S.-based refiner over parent PDVSA’s debts.

Jack Lynch, who spent 18 years working for BP in Houston, London and Cleveland, Ohio, was named vice president of legal and government affairs, according to people familiar with the matter.

A Citgo spokeswoman confirmed someone had been hired to fill the company’s top legal position but declined further comment.

A $913 million payment secured with Citgo shares and with no grace period is due to PDVSA bondholders on Oct. 27. It is unclear whether PDVSA will make the payment, since Citgo broke from the state-run firm earlier this year.

PDVSA did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Other creditors of Venezuela, including Canada’s Crystallex, also are attempting to seize Citgo to collect on unpaid debts.

Lynch, a former BP deputy group general counsel, replaced Alejandro Escarra, who left the firm earlier this year as Citgo ousted executives tied to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Lynch reports to Chief Executive Carlos Jorda, who joined the eighth-largest U.S. refiner by output in August.

Citgo this month urged the Trump administration to issue an executive order shielding the company from PDVSA creditors, arguing it could help in the reconstruction of the South American country under a future government.

Reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston and Marianna Parraga in Mexico City; Editing by Tom Brown