Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

BP loses spill probe documents bid

BP cannot see confidential Gulf oil spill documents, a judge has said

BP is not entitled to see confidential documents used by a court-appointed investigator who has said some lawyers acted improperly in the claims process arising from the 2010 Gulf oil spill, a judge has ruled.

The investigator, former FBI director Louis Freeh, said some private lawyers improperly used a brief who once served on claims administrator Patrick Juneau's staff to speed up a 7.9 million-dollar (£4.7m) claim.

Mr Freeh has recommended that the court consider disallowing the claim, imposing sanctions against the lawyers and improvements on controls in the claims process.

His investigation also noted a potential conflict of interest and breach of confidentiality by an appeals administrator in the claims process, who has resigned.

BP had asked US district judge Carl Barbier to order Mr Freeh to turn over various documents from the probe. But Judge Barbier said BP had shown no reason why it should see the confidential documents.

Mr 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 had issued provide sufficient information to support his findings and recommendations.

In rejecting BP's bid for the documents, Judge Barbier noted that Mr Freeh's findings in the probe were not 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," the judge added. "This is a court-supervised settlement programme. If BP's relief is granted, there is risk it will become a BP-supervised settlement programme."

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