May 21, 2010 / 3:06 AM / in 8 years

Shareholder sues BP leaders over alleged lapses

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A BP Plc shareholder in Alaska on Thursday sued the corporation’s chairman and board members, alleging the officials’ mismanagement led to the disastrous Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and spill and have devalued BP stock.

The lawsuit, filed in Alaska Superior Court in Anchorage by local attorney Jeff Pickett, accuses BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward and the corporation’s board of “breaches of fiduciary duties and gross mismanagement,” resulting in “improper, reckless and illegal health, safety and environmental practices at the Company.”

The lawsuit seeks undetermined compensatory and punitive damages, plus appointment of an independent corporate monitor to oversee safety and environmental compliance at BP.

The complaint was similar to an earlier action filed four years ago in state court by Pickett and two labor groups that had invested in BP.

Plaintiffs in that 2006 lawsuit included the UNITE HERE National Retirement Fund, owned by a union representing mostly hospitality-industry workers, and the London Pension Fund, owned by public-sector employees in the city of London.

That 2006 lawsuit charged the then-chief executive Lord John Browne and other BP leaders of negligence in their management of pipelines at the Prudhoe Bay oil field on Alaska’s North Slope. A corrosion-eaten hole in one pipeline caused the largest-ever oil spill on the North Slope, and another corrosion-related spill prompted a partial shutdown of Prudhoe Bay, the nation’s biggest oil field.

That lawsuit was settled in 2008 with an agreement by BP managers to undertake several management reforms. That settlement also followed an agreement by BP managers to reduce Browne’s retirement benefits.

A week ago, the plaintiffs in that case filed a motion to essentially reopen the matter, asking the court to compel BP to abide by settlement terms they said had been breached.

Thursday’s lawsuit also alleges that the settlement terms were breached. Despite promises of reform made by the corporation in 2008, the lawsuit said, “the culture of ignoring safety requirements and excessive risk taking at the company remains and BP’s violations have continued.”

A BP spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the new lawsuit.

Editing by Todd Eastham

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