Setting the Record Straight With the Los Angeles Times
Michael Hiltzik displays an astonishing willingness to parrot plaintiffs’ lawyers’ talking points in his recent column about BP’s settlement agreement with the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) (“BP tries to worm out of oil spill payouts,” Los Angeles Times, Feb. 23, 2014). Here’s the other half of the story that he neglected to include.
Decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit of March 3, 2014 (Causal-nexus requirement)
For the last year, BP has been fighting in court to correct misinterpretations of the settlement agreement that it reached with the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in 2012.
BP has already secured a favorable ruling in the courts requiring the matching of revenues and expenses in calculating BEL claims. In December 2013, after ten months of litigation, including two appeals to the Fifth Circuit, the District Court reversed its prior rulings and held that the CSSP must ensure that claimants’ reported revenues and expenses are correctly matched for purposes of determining BEL awards under the settlement.
BP’s Response to Fifth Circuit Decision of March 3, 2014
BP disagrees with the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denying the company’s request for a permanent injunction preventing certain payments under the Economic and Property Damages Settlement (the “settlement”) it reached in 2012. BP had asked the Court to prevent payments to business economic loss (BEL) claimants whose alleged injuries are not traceable to the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill. BP believes that such BEL claimants are not proper class members under the terms of the settlement and is considering its appellate options.
Tallying Up Fraud in the Gulf
A Massachusetts man who faked his death. A Detroit mayoral candidate who concocted owning a boat. A Mississippi man who claimed to own a shrimping and fishing business that didn’t exist.
These are just a few of the individuals who’ve been convicted of or charged with defrauding or attempting to defraud the claims facilities that were put in place to help those with losses traceable to the Deepwater Horizon accident. Since 2010, dozens of cases of fraud and related crimes – accounting for over $9 million in claims – have been prosecuted in courts around the Gulf, with many individuals being sentenced to jail time or ordered to repay the awards that they wrongly received. And as news reports bear out, the prosecutions are ongoing. Public reports show that thus far, there have been 133 reported fraud cases leading to criminal charges and 120 reported fraud cases leading to criminal convictions in nine states.
BP’s Statement on Fifth Circuit Decision of March 3, 2014
BP disagrees with today’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denying the company’s request for a permanent injunction preventing certain payments under the Economic and Property Damages Settlement it reached in 2012. BP had asked the Court to prevent payments to business economic loss (BEL) claimants whose alleged injuries are not traceable to the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill. BP believes that such BEL claimants are not proper class members under the terms of the settlement and is considering its appellate options.
Fishy Business in the Seafood Compensation Program
In a recent advertisement, BP highlighted a spate of suspicious claims that have received awards from the Seafood Compensation Program, the $2.3 billion fund BP established as part of the Gulf settlement to help shrimpers and fishermen who suffered financial losses due to the spill.
Latest Tourism Records Underscore Gulf Recovery
Across the Gulf Coast, officials are reporting big increases in tourism. From Alabama recently came word that the Alabama Gulf Coast broke its tourism record for the third consecutive year in 2013. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has pointed out the Sunshine State’s “record gains” in tourism in 2013 and predicted that 2014 was on track to be “another record year.” In New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu recently celebrated what the Times-Picayune called the Big Easy’s “booming year” in 2013 – which also saw the city named one of the 21 must-see destinations in the world by National Geographic Traveler.
On Exxon Valdez Anniversary, Questions for America’s Legal System
This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez accident – a mishap that spawned decades of litigation and delayed justice for many. Over the two decades that litigation dragged on, an estimated 8,000 original plaintiffs died while awaiting their compensation as the company and the plaintiffs’ lawyers battled it out in court.
Statement by BP in Response to NOAA / Stanford University Tuna Study
The paper provides no evidence to suggest a population-level impact on tuna or other fish species in the Gulf of Mexico. Bathing isolated heart cells with oil concentrations is simply not comparable to the real-world conditions and exposures that existed in the Gulf for whole fish.
U.S. Government Expert: Gulf Coast Residents Do Not Appear to Have Higher Chemical Exposure as a Result of Oil Spill
Gulf coast residents and oil-spill cleanup workers do not appear to have higher rates of harmful chemical exposure than other U.S. residents, said Dale Sandler, epidemiology chief of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), at a conference in Alabama that discussed scientific research following the Deepwater Horizon accident, according to a news report by the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Consider Your Source
Tom Young’s articles in The Legal Examiner (“False Negatives are a Positive for BP”, “Emeril’s BP claim is legitimate and by the book – BAM!”, “BP and the Geography of Compromise”, “BP’s Oil Spill: A Gulf Coast Economic Tsunami”, and “Hoodwinked: What BP Says v. What BP Means”) mischaracterize BP’s efforts to help restore integrity to the claims process in the Gulf.
BP Responds to Fifth Circuit Decision in Fairness Appeal
On January 10, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the validity of the settlement BP reached in 2012 with the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) as a constitutionally proper class action but left to another panel of the Fifth Circuit the question of how to interpret the agreement, including the meaning of the causation requirements that underpin the settlement. As a result, the litigation seeking to rectify the misinterpretations that have led to inflated, exaggerated or wholly fictitious claims – and inappropriate awards by the Gulf claims program – continues unabated.
Some Lawyers Represent Businesses With Losses From the Spill. Others Represent Themselves.
More than three years ago, BP made a commitment to the Gulf, and every day since, we’ve worked hard to keep it. But the settlement agreement we signed to help people and businesses that suffered real economic losses from the spill has been twisted and misinterpreted to allow payments for losses that did not occur or have no apparent connection to the spill.
BP Has Honored its Commitment, Spokesman Says: Letter
Letter to the Editor by Geoff Morrell
Re: "BP should dial back the attacks," Opinions, Dec.20. Your recent editorial ignores the facts that demonstrate BP's commitment to helping the Gulf Coast recover. It's also built on a false premise.
You appear to think that BP should pay any claim -- including those based upon losses that are exaggerated, fictitious or wholly unrelated to the spill. BP has said consistently, for nearly four years, that it would do the right thing.
BP's Response to the District Court's Order of December 24, 2013
BP is evaluating the District Court's ruling with regard to matching issues. BP disagrees with the Court's decision not to enforce the causal-nexus requirement in the settlement agreement. The Claims Administrator's failure to adhere to the agreement's definition of class membership has raised legal and Constitutional problems that, unless corrected, render the agreement unlawful.
Half the Management Has Resigned or Been Terminated. What’s Going on in the Gulf Settlement Claims Facility?
Over the past few months, we’ve been sharing our concerns about the mounting problems with the administration of the Gulf settlement, ranging from fraud to corruption to huge, questionable payments. Now there are even more serious concerns about the people who are supposed to be in charge of the claims program – they’re disappearing.
NOAA’s Refusal to Share Data About Dolphins
A study published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology purports to examine what’s harming the health of bottlenose dolphins in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. It infers conclusions without providing scientific evidence to support them. But what’s perhaps even more remarkable is the refusal of one of the study’s authors – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a government agency – to share with the public data that is even more important and that goes directly to the study’s conclusions. NOAA has declined to share this additional data, but, interestingly, it did share data in another recent investigation of dolphin deaths in the Atlantic Ocean.
BP’s Response to Study of Bottlenose Dolphins in Barataria Bay
BP has been funding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) work on this subject for over three years and requesting data throughout this period. The agency still has not provided BP with any data demonstrating that the alleged poor health of any dolphins was caused by oil exposure. Indeed, NOAA has not even provided BP an injury assessment on dolphins or any other species or habitat.
BP Files Suit Over Plaintiffs’ Lawyer Fraud in Seafood Compensation Program Alleging That Funding for Program was Inappropriately Inflated Due to Fraud
Brazen Fraud Involved Tens of Thousands of Phantom Clients
BP today filed a civil lawsuit in the federal District Court in New Orleans against plaintiffs’ lawyer Mikal C. Watts, accusing him of having fraudulently claimed to represent more than 40,000 deckhands who allegedly suffered economic injuries as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. BP relied on Mr. Watts’ representations when it agreed to pay $2.3 billion to the Seafood Compensation Program, which was established to compensate those who earn their livelihood from Gulf waters and were directly affected by the spill.
The Raw Facts About Oysters
With the holiday season in high gear, oysters and oyster dressing are once again on many people’s shopping lists – especially along the Gulf Coast. Unfortunately, in trying to explain why oyster harvests might not be as large this season, some Louisiana news outlets are swallowing undercooked arguments and overlooking information gathered by the state’s own experts.
Evidence of Potential Fraud Is “Nothing?” BP Disagrees
The Loyola University New Orleans College of Law describes its mission as teaching future members of the bar to be “committed to ethical norms in pursuit of dignity for all.” Which makes it all the more disappointing when one of its most high-profile professors shrugs at evidence of potential fraud.
In the December 9 edition of Legal Newsline, Blaine LeCesne, a professor of law at Loyola, is quoted as saying that an ongoing investigation of the Court Supervised Settlement Program led by former federal judge and FBI Director Louis Freeh is “much ado about nothing.” Defrauding the program is “almost impossible,” the Internet-based news service quotes Mr. LeCesne as saying, since claims have to go through “a gauntlet of multiple levels of accountants’ review before a decision is made to pay the claim.”
Early Restoration Efforts Continue in the Gulf: NRD Trustees Release Phase III Draft Early Restoration Plan Outlining 44 Proposed Projects Estimated at $627 Million
Federal and state Natural Resource Damages (NRD) Trustees have released their Phase III Draft Early Restoration Plan for public review and comment. The plan outlines 44 proposed projects on which BP and the Trustees reached agreement in principle during the past year.
The projects, totaling an estimated $627 million, are part of BP's unprecedented commitment to provide up to $1 billion in early restoration funding to expedite recovery of natural resources injured as a result of the Deepwater Horizon accident.
BP Seeks Answers on Deleted Notes
For months, BP has voiced concerns about the management and operations of the Court Supervised Settlement Program (CSSP). One of those concerns relates to the strength of the facility’s IT procedures and capabilities. Evidence has recently come to light, for example, that notes taken by the CSSP claims reviewers have been deleted. This represents a breach in standard operating procedure for facilities like the CSSP and may very well be a violation of the District Court’s document preservation order that has been in place since the Deepwater Horizon accident. At the very least, it demonstrates the urgent need to assess the overall accuracy and integrity of the claims process.
Poor Oversight Plagues Gulf Settlement Program
Problems with the Gulf settlement program go beyond the systematic payment of claims with no apparent connection to the spill and allegations of fraud and corruption. The settlement program also has serious operational issues with its claim processing, ignoring the documentation requirements in the settlement agreement and routinely failing to resolve discrepancies but relying instead on unsubstantiated claimant allegations and facially questionable or unreliable data.
U.K. Government and U.S. Trade Groups File Briefs Challenging the EPA’s Suspension and Disqualification of BP
The U.K. government and a number of U.S. trade organizations – including the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the American Petroleum Institute – filed amicus curiae briefs on Monday challenging the suspension and disqualification of BP by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Fifth Circuit Rules on BP's Emergency Motion
Today's order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit again underscores that the implementation of BP's settlement agreement with the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee has veered off course. If properly implemented by the District Court, the Fifth Circuit's order will help return the settlement to its original, intended and lawful function – the compensation of claimants who sustained actual losses that are traceable to the Deepwater Horizon accident.
Plaintiffs' Attorney Is Profiting Off of the "Legal Mess" That He Decries (Opinion from BP)
By Geoff Morrell
Bobo Cunningham's op-ed ("BP safety commercials betray the oil company's arrogance") misstates the facts while overlooking who's really benefiting from the "legal mess" he decries.
BP Makes Gulf of Mexico Environmental Data Publicly Available
On November 18, BP launched an effort to make a vast quantity of environmental data collected from the Gulf of Mexico publicly available and easily accessible, enabling more people to use the data for research and other studies.
Florida Tourism Has Another Record-Breaking Year
Florida Governor Rick Scott announced on November 15 that 72.6 million tourists visited the state during the first three quarters of 2013, over 3% more than in the same period last year. Florida joins neighboring Baldwin County, Alabama – home of popular beach destinations Gulf Shores and Orange Beach – in being on track to break tourism records for the third consecutive year. (Click here to read about Baldwin County’s 2013 tourism announcement.)
The Facts About Dispersants
Response to Al Jazeera Story Titled “BP’s ‘Widespread Human Health Crisis’”
A recent story posted on Al Jazeera’s website relies on highly questionable sources in reporting on potential effects of dispersants used during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Here are the facts:
Bayou Bonanza Bombshell: $540 Million in Spill Claims Went to Medical Clinics, Lawyers, a Psychiatric Hospital and Other Far-Flung Businesses
A lawyer who lost his license. A wheat farmer who stopped growing wheat. A hotel that closed for repairs after a fire.
What do these disparate businesses and people – some located hundreds of miles from the Gulf Coast – have in common? They’re just a few of the more than 1,000 claimants getting payments from the Court Supervised Settlement Program in the Deepwater Horizon litigation, even though, as described in court papers filed by BP, their losses are either non-existent, exaggerated or have nothing to do with the Deepwater Horizon accident.
Gulf Tourism Industry Continues to Break Records
In 2013, south Baldwin County, Alabama (including popular vacation destinations Gulf Shores and Orange Beach) is poised to see record-breaking tourism numbers for the third year in a row. This is another example of the economic recovery in the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon accident.
Appeals Court Agrees With BP: Settlement Program Should Stop Awards to Claimants Lacking “Actual Injury Traceable to Loss From the Deepwater Horizon Accident”
On October 2, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit confirmed what BP has been saying for months: claimants should not be paid for fictitious or inflated losses under the business economic loss (BEL) framework of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) settlement agreement. The Fifth Circuit has now made clear that the settlement agreement could be jeopardized if the Claims Administrator continues to make payments to claimants that did not suffer actual losses due to the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill. As a result, the Fifth Circuit ordered the District Court to stop payments to any claimants who lack “actual injury traceable to loss from the Deepwater Horizon accident” until the District Court can address the problems identified in the Fifth Circuit’s decision.
Court Gives Judge Louis Freeh Expanded Powers Following Judge Freeh’s First Report on the Gulf Settlement Claims Process
For some time, BP has raised concerns about possible fraud and misconduct in the Gulf settlement claims process. On September 6, 2013, those concerns were confirmed by an independent investigation commissioned by the Court and led by former FBI Director and federal Judge Louis Freeh.
It’s About Accountability, Not Affordability
Response to the Times-Picayune editorial titled “BP Still Trying to Minimize the Size of the Deepwater Horizon Spill”
The facts and the law are supposed to determine how the Clean Water Act is applied. Unfortunately, in New Orleans, some media commentators seem to think justice should be based solely on a company’s balance sheet.
The Facts About Gulf Coast Health Challenges
Response to Al Jazeera’s story titled “BP’s Silent Disaster”
An article posted on the website of Al Jazeera on October 16, 2013 titled “BP’s Silent Disaster,” presents a misleading account of the health challenges facing the Gulf Coast region and fails to report on the unprecedented collaborative efforts by our company and other organizations to address those challenges.
The Facts About the Gulf’s Recovery
Response to Al Jazeera’s story titled “Gulf Ecosystem in Crisis After BP Spill”
A story published on October 20, 2013 on the website of Al Jazeera and the examples it cites, are not consistent with the facts. The story – titled “Gulf ecosystem in crisis after BP spill” – fails to portray an accurate picture of the state of the Gulf of Mexico today. The truth – based on information from credible third-party sources – is that the Gulf is undergoing a strong recovery.
About That “Oily Material” on Louisiana Coasts
The writer Mark Twain is often credited with having said that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. Twain’s observation could be applied to some of the media commentary arising from a report last week that the amount of residual material recovered from Louisiana’s shoreline has increased this year. Some pundits have seized on this increase to argue that the response to the Deepwater Horizon accident was inadequate. But the statistics they’ve cited don’t tell the full story.
BP Response to 60 Minutes Australia RE: "Crude Solution"
60 Minutes Australia PO Box 27
Willoughby NSW 2068
Dear Ms. Townsend,
Your recent report “Crude Solution” which aired August 18, 2013, ignores mountains of compelling information and credible scientific data on the use and effectiveness of dispersants during the Deepwater Horizon accident response, resulting in a highly irresponsible and sensational report. When the facts are taken into account, a much different story emerges.
Restoration in the Gulf: The View From BP
Letter to the Editor by Geoff Morrell
The New York Times
To the Editor:
“Shirking Responsibility in the Gulf,” by Stephen Teague (Op-Ed, July 31), paints an incomplete picture of BP’s efforts to help economic restoration efforts in the Gulf.
Since the Deepwater Horizon accident, BP has paid more than $11 billion in claims to more than 300,000 claimants. Since 2011, we have also funded a consortium of legal services nonprofits in four Gulf states to help low-income people navigate the claims process.
Oil Spill Deal Is Being Used to Enrich Plaintiffs' Lawyers
By Geoff Morrell
Plaintiffs' lawyers have attacked BP for identifying grave problems with the administration of a settlement we reached with them last year that was supposed to compensate people and businesses that suffered actual losses as a result of the Deepwater Horizon accident. We offer the following facts in response to the plaintiffs' lawyers' attacks so Louisianians can make an informed judgment about the settlement and whether it's really compensating the intended beneficiaries.
Spill Deal's Big Winners Shouldn't Be Plaintiffs' Lawyers (Opinion From BP)
By Geoff Morrell
In recent weeks, plaintiffs' lawyers have published opinion pieces in Gulf Coast newspapers attacking BP for identifying grave problems with the administration of a settlement we reached with them last year. The plaintiffs' lawyers say the settlement – which is supposed to compensate people and businesses that suffered actual losses as a result of the Deepwater Horizon spill – is being administered "exactly" as it should and helping "families and businesses."
Oil Spill Money Should Only Go to Legitimate Claimants (Opinion)
By John C. Minge
For the past three years, BP has worked with the people of the Gulf to restore the region's environment and economy. It's been a big job, and we've tried to do the right thing and honor our commitments.