The flurry of motions has continued this week in the back-and-forth that is the Deepwater Horizon Settlement Program. BP is being called out on its tactics in a new motion to hold BP in contempt of Court by a new filing on January 31st. The new motion before the District Court alleges that BP disclosed confidential client information in a recent ad seen across the globe discussing the specifics of a few Settlement Program claims. All claimant and claim information is to remain strictly confidential according to the Settlement Agreement, and BP’s conduct has now become the subject of legal briefing challenging its public PR campaign and tactics that are alleged to be directly contrary to same.
In a separate motion, a law firm has filed a motion to disqualify Louis Freeh as the Special Master overseeing the Court’s proactive monitoring and investigation of the Program. Louis Freeh, who has been paid untold sums by BP, disclosed last week that he has ties to the law firms that have been hired by BP… but that he personally does not see it as a conflict. We think it’s best for the Court to decide that, and applaud the motion asking Judge Barbier to look at this issue to ensure that no possible impropriety exists.
BP has been unsuccessful in its attempts thus far to derail the very Settlement Program it helped create, as the Federal Appeals Court last month upheld the validity and propriety of the Program. In its latest attempts to chill businesses from filing valid claims, BP has set its sights on Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau, and has attempted to vilify him for running the Program according to the Agreement. When in fact, Louis Freeh’s investigation last Fall not only found Juneau to be innocent of fraudulent or questionable activity, but Freeh praised his role and actions.
So what is BP’s goal exactly? Last week BP wrote a letter to Freeh asking him to turn over reams of documents that could possibly be related to Juneau’s knowledge of alleged wrongdoing. Lawyers for BP said this, “A strong tone on ethical issues from top management is lacking.” When asked if BP wants Mr. Juneau removed, Geoff Morrell, BP Spokesperson, said “the letter speaks for itself.”
It appears evident that BP believes replacing Juneau will help cut down on their bottom line. “It’s unusual to have the ‘special master’ vilified here,” said Alexandra Lahav, a law professor at the University of Connecticut who specializes in complex lawsuits.
While BP continues to push and resist, the Settlement Program remains intact and will pay business owner who properly qualify. The Program deadline remains April 22nd of this year, and all business owners are encouraged to be evaluated.