BP has lost its latest bid to suspend compensation payments over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill – after a judge said they had no ‘credible evidence of fraud’.
US district judge Carl Barbier said last night the super major had failed to prove any evidence of wrongdoing at the claim processing centre in Mobile, Alabama.
He also rejected BP’s allegations that its ability to appeal payments was tainted because, the company said, “at least two appeal panelists had apparent conflicts of interest.”
The issue earlier was brought to Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan, who investigated and is handling the matter, Barbier said.
“None of the claims represented by the firms of two of the panelists have been approved, paid or appealed,” Barbier said. referring to law firms. The “alleged conflicts” are not “a basis upon which to suspend the entire claims payment program,” he said.
“BP respectfully believes the court’s order is wrong on the facts and the law,” said BP spokesman Geoff Morrell, adding the “core systems for ensuring the integrity” of the claims processing program “continue to be deficient”.
Barbier recognized the need for an independent investigation of the program to ensure its integrity when he appointed Freeh to investigate initial allegations of possible misconduct, Morrell said.
“As we await the completion of this broad investigation, we continue to believe a temporary pause in payments is warranted,” he said.
“BP is reviewing its options with respect to the district court’s decision.”
It marks the latest blow for BP in their ongoing efforts to block payments over the Macondo disaster, payouts for which the company now expects to hit $9.6billion.
Earlier month Judge Barbier rejected the company’s request to stop the payments while former FBI director Louis Freeh probes allegations of misconduct in the claims program.
Freeh was appointed after an attorney at the Deepwater Horizon Court Supervised Settlement Program was suspended and accused of accepting fees from law firms while processing their clients’ claims from the oil spill. Another attorney was subsequently suspended following similar allegations.
“We’re pleased that the court relied on actual facts and evidence in reaching its conclusion – for the second time – and not the unsupported hyperbole and speculation propagated by BP,” said Stephen Herman and James Roy, lawyers for those suing BP, in a statement. plaintiffs suing the company, in a statement.