BP barred from seeing documents in oil spill claims probe
BP is not entitled to see confidential documents used by a court-appointed investigator who has alleged that some attorneys acted improperly in the claims process arising from the 2010 Gulf oil spill, a federal judge ruled Friday.
The investigator, former FBI director Louis Freeh, has said some private attorneys improperly used a lawyer who once served on claims administrator Patrick Juneau's staff to expedite a $7.9 million claim. Freeh has recommended that the court consider disallowing the claim. He also recommended sanctions against the lawyers and improvements on controls in the claims process.
Freeh's investigation also noted a potential conflict of interest and breach of confidentiality by an appeals administrator in the claims process, who has resigned.
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BP had asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to order Freeh to turn over various documents from the probe. But Barbier on Friday said BP has shown no reason why it should see the confidential documents.
Freeh had argued against turning over the documents, arguing that they were confidential under agreements involving parties to the claims process and that reports he has issued provide sufficient information to support his findings and recommendations.
In rejecting BP's bid for the documents, Barbier noted that Freeh's findings in the probe have not been adverse to the oil giant.
"BP has not established that it is more qualified to conduct the investigation than Mr. Freeh and the Freeh Group," Barbier added. "This is a Court-supervised settlement program. If BP's relief is granted, there is risk it will become a BP-supervised settlement program."
A well blowout near BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April 2010 killed 11 people and spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The company has agreed to pay about $7.8 billion in compensation to businesses and residents for damage caused by the spill — on top of the $4 billion in criminal penalties it was ordered to pay earlier this year.