BP want US$7.9m claim to be disallowed

KEVIN MCGILL
Last updated 14:22 22/02/2014

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BP is pressing a federal court to disallow a US$7.9 million Gulf oil spill claim awarded to a Louisiana law firm.

Friday's filing in New Orleans is the latest development in disputes involving the Andry Law Firm, BP and former FBI director Louis Freeh.

Freeh was appointed last year to investigate the claims process.

In a report last September, Freeh said he found evidence that attorney Jon Andry and others tried to corrupt the settlement process, using a lawyer on the staff of claims administrator Patrick Juneau.

Andry's lawyers have denied he did anything wrong. And they have questioned Freeh's impartiality, noting Freeh's acknowledged partnership at a law firm working on an unrelated case with lawyers for a firm representing BP.

Freeh re-asserted his allegations in his own filing Friday.

Last year, Freeh said Andry and another private attorney, Glen Lerner, used Lionel Sutton, a lawyer on Juneau's staff, to expedite their firm's claim. In return, Sutton received more than $40,000 in fees from payments on claims he had referred to their law firm before joining Juneau's staff, Freeh's report said.

In that report, Freeh also urged US District Judge Carl Barbier to consider disallowing payment on the $7.9 million claim.

BP echoed that sentiment in Friday's filing, saying approving the claim would undermine the integrity of the process.

Sutton's lawyer, Michael Walsh, argued in a Dec. 18 court filing that Freeh doesn't have any evidence that his client broke any laws or had a conflict of interest during his work on the settlement.

Lawyers for Andry and Lerner said Freeh had a conflict of interest: Before Barbier appointed him to lead the investigation, Freeh disclosed that he is a partner at a law firm that is working on an unrelated case with lawyers for Kirkland & Ellis, a firm that represents BP.

Freeh has said in response that he fully disclosed the "claimed conflicts" before he was appointed and that his fees as a court-appointed special master are approved by the Court, not by BP and its lawyers.

In a filing late Friday, Freeh responded to various defenses by Andry, Lerner and others who are seeking to have his report rejected by the court. Freeh said the court should adopt his report and consider sanctions against the attorneys.

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- AP

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