The Norman Transcript

July 17, 2013

BP seeks temporary halt to Gulf oil spill settlement payouts

By Michael Kunzelman
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — BP asked a federal judge on Tuesday to temporarily halt all settlement payments to Gulf Coast businesses and residents who claim they lost money after the company’s 2010 oil spill while former FBI Director Louis Freeh investigates alleged misconduct by a lawyer who helped administer the multibillion-dollar settlement program.

BP PLC argues in a court filing that it shouldn’t be required to take the risk that hundreds of millions of dollars in claims payments could be “tainted by fraud, corruption and malfeasance.”

“A temporary suspension in ... payments will eliminate the serious risk of any further irreparable harm to BP while having little negative impact upon the claimants,” attorneys for the London-based oil giant wrote.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier didn’t immediately rule on BP’s most recent request to temporarily halt settlement payouts.

In April, Barbier refused to block what could be billions of dollars of payments to businesses after BP argued that he and court-supervised claims administrator Patrick Juneau have misinterpreted the settlement and forced the company to pay for inflated and fictitious losses.

Barbier, who appointed Juneau, upheld his interpretation of settlement terms governing payments to businesses. BP appealed that decision.