“BP Accused by Lawyers of Breaking Racketeering Law in Spill”


BP Accused by Lawyers of Breaking Racketeering Law in Spill

January 25, 2011, 12:05 AM EST

By Laurel Brubaker Calkins and Allen M. Johnson Jr.

Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) — BP Plc was accused by lawyers for victims of the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history of breaking civil racketeering laws by engaging in a pattern of violations that led to the disaster.

“BP engaged in a pattern of fraudulent conduct directed at regulators from the inception of the Macondo project, continuing through and after the spill and to this day,” Stephen Herman and James Roy, lawyers for hundreds of oil-spill victims, said yesterday in a filing in federal court in New Orleans. “BP’s fraudulent actions and omissions were part of a broader pattern of unlawful conduct that it has employed over the years to place profits over safety.”

Herman and Roy are liaison counsel for a committee representing plaintiffs in more than 400 lawsuits over damages for personal and economic injuries caused by last April’s explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig off the Louisiana coast.

The rig, which was owned by a unit of Transocean Ltd., was drilling the well, named Macondo, for BP at the time of the blast. BP is the only company named as a defendant in the spill victims’ master civil RICO complaint.

Daren Beaudo, a BP spokesman, declined to comment on the filing.

Also yesterday, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood asked the judge overseeing oil-spill litigation against London-based BP to take an oversight role to “correct deficiencies” in the $20 billion spill-claims fund run by Kenneth Feinberg.

‘Legitimate Claims’

Feinberg has been criticized by spill victims’ lawyers for his administration of the claims process through which BP has said it would pay “all legitimate claims” filed by people and businesses damaged by the spill. Critics contend Feinberg has delayed or denied claims without adequate explanation and established protocols that encourage cash-strapped claimants to accept small, quick payments to avoid years of litigation.

“It is the state’s position that this court has jurisdiction over the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, including its administrator Kenneth Feinberg,” Hood said in papers filed in federal court in New Orleans. Feinberg’s fund “is nothing more than a surrogate for BP in the administration of the claims process that BP is required to provide” under federal law, Hood said.

Amy Weiss, a spokeswoman for Feinberg, declined to comment.

Hood said Feinberg hasn’t cooperated with the attorneys general of the five Gulf Coast states or changed the fund’s claims payment process as they requested. He attached 61 pages of correspondence between the state attorneys general and Feinberg fund officials.

Release Required

Requiring claimants to release BP and all companies involved in the spill from liability for any future damages to settle their claims quickly is unfair, Hood wrote Feinberg on Nov. 9.

“Only people who are beaten down, poor, and/or desperate would agree to the terms of the proposed release,” Hood said. “The excessive breadth of the release will lead the public to believe” that the fund’s goal “is not to assist people in the Gulf, but to assist BP in taking advantage of this downtrodden group of people,” he said.

BP’s own report into the Deepwater Horizon disaster placed much of the blame on its contractors, including rig owner Transocean and Halliburton Energy Services, which provided cementing services for the well. BP has consistently maintained that cost considerations don’t compromise safety in company operations.

Racketeering Allegations

Herman and Roy claim in their 93-page filing yesterday that BP knowingly broke U.S. environmental laws, skirted federal rules and regulations governing offshore oil and gas extraction, and misrepresented its ability to stop and clean up a deepwater spill.

They cite examples of BP conduct taken from reports issued by the Obama administration’s presidential spill commission and the University of California at Berkeley’s Deepwater Horizon Study Group. Details are also drawn from documents and testimony presented to Congress and a joint panel of offshore regulators and the U.S. Coast Guard, which is also investigating the incident.

‘Disastrous Incidents’

The Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill “were foreshadowed by a string of disastrous incidents and near misses in BP’s operations on land and at sea,” Herman and Roy said. “BP has, since at least 2001, used this enterprise to conduct the related acts of mail and wire fraud comprising the pattern of racketeering.”

The victims’ lawyers claim BP overlooked or downplayed the importance of “significant problems related to the Deepwater Horizon’s equipment and maintenance.” The rig was leased to BP for its entire nine-year history.

BP was “on notice” of problems concerning the rig’s blowout preventer, alarm systems, ballast systems and other “significant deficiencies” after a September 2009 company audit of the Deepwater Horizon found 390 overdue maintenance jobs, many of which were of high priority, the lawyers said.

They also claim BP well managers intentionally misrepresented portions of the Macondo well-drilling plan to regulators and misled spill responders on the best methods for stopping the underwater gusher, which released more than 4.1 million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

The case is In Re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, 2:10-md-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

–With assistance from Margaret Cronin Fisk in Southfield, Michigan. Editors: Charles Carter, Michael Hytha.

To contact the reporters on this story: Laurel Brubaker Calkins in Houston at laurel@calkins.us.com; Allen M. Johnson Jr. in New Orleans at allenmct@gmail.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net.

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5 Responses to “BP Accused by Lawyers of Breaking Racketeering Law in Spill”

  1. Gary says:

    We need to remove BP from the USA completely.

    This war, Gulf War II

    Annie get your guns lets oil board some British

  2. This is a beginning, but with all due respect they need to go back in history and look at the Cartels and who allowed this to go on. This is just a beginning in righting the wrongs that our Government has allowed. Cheney and all the persons who in tandem allowed this destruction to go on and were participants and co-conspirators in the Genocidal acts on our Earth. Our Gulf is dead, but most importantly we need help for the people who are very sick by the acts and actions of not just BP, but others who have drilled, gutted and derailed our precious land and her waters. It is time to take care of the people of the Gulf, so many who have been harmed and ignored.
    We have won a battle; now we need to win a war.

  3. Pingback: “BP Accused by Lawyers of Breaking Racketeering Law in Spill” « thefloridianguy.com

  4. BeTrueSeekTruth says:

    A lot of the back and forth we see between the U.S. government and BP is theater meant for public consumption. If you trace who is ultimately pulling the strings in the U.S. government and in turn BP you will eventually arrive at the SAME group of people. Their MO can be seen in the wreckage strewn throughout the world. They hate the earth and see only resources to be used in the accumulation of wealth. They hate the sheeple – the non elitist majority whom they so easily manipulate. The eventual end game is depopulation of the Gulf Coast region so that it is largely an industrial area off limits to the public. Why do these people hate the earth so much you may ask?
    Because their ancestors are not from the earth. They’ve also created a lot of fictitious religions that have duped people into believing that the earth will be destroyed and their salvation is in heaven or their punishment in hell. In this way, they have neutralized people’s passion and respect for the earth because they look at it as a waystation and not their true home. If you seriously study these major religions you will see that they are all based on sun worship cults whose origins trace back to the progenitors – the demi gods who controlled and founded the earliest civilizations on the earth. You may giggle and scoff but those that do have simply not done the research or used common sense. This is why there are so many people willing to be manipulated and used by the likes of BP. The have been made morally bankrupt, systematically ignorant, and mentally imprisoned by the educators, the religions, and the social engineers of the age.

  5. Pingback: “BP Accused by Lawyers of Breaking Racketeering Law in Spill” « thefloridianguy.com

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