A former BP drilling operations chief resigned just months before last year's Gulf of Mexico oil spill amid disagreements over the oil giant's commitment to safety, a class-action lawsuit says.
Documents in Houston, Texas, claim Kevin Lacy, BP's former senior vice president for drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico, reached a mutual agreement with the company to resign in December 2009 because he believed BP was not adequately committed to improving safety protocols in offshore operations to the level of its industry peers.
The Deepwater Horizon rig explosion occurred on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and causing the worst oil spill in US history.
The claims come in an amended version of the lawsuit, originally filed last year, that alleges BP inflated its stock price by hiding information and making false and misleading statements about its safety practices before the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. BP's stock value dropped roughly in half following the oil rig explosion and spill.
BP spokesman Daren Beaudo declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Public pension funds in New York and Ohio are the lead plaintiffs in the suit, which also includes individual investors and the Oklahoma police pension system. Similar lawsuits by the different plaintiffs originally were filed in New Orleans but were consolidated and moved to Houston federal court.
The amended complaint claims that a company reorganisation that began in 2007, which resulted in numerous redundancies and cuts to safety budgets, "would materially affect the company's ability to drill safely in the Gulf of Mexico".
The suit said Mr Lacy, an experienced drilling engineer who had implemented a rigorous drilling safety programme while at Chevron, had been recruited to join BP in 2007 to improve and standardise its drilling policies and protocols. The amended complaint also listed various accidents and safety problems BP had before the oil spill, incidents which have been previously detailed in other lawsuits and investigations of the oil giant.
The oil rig blast led to more than 200 million gallons of oil spewing from BP's well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico, according to US government estimates.
The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation and has already sued some of the companies involved. A presidential commission that investigated the spill said last month that management failures at BP, rig owner Transocean and contractor Halliburton led to the blowout and explosion. BP's own investigation shared the blame among itself, Transocean and Halliburton.