NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge refused Friday to temporarily shut down a multibillion-dollar settlement program for compensating victims of BP's 2010 Gulf oil spill, saying he has seen no evidence of widespread fraud among the tens of thousands of claims.
The judge also said he was offended by what he saw as attempts to smear the lawyer administering the claims.
BP PLC argued that all payments to Gulf Coast residents and businesses should be suspended while former FBI Director Louis Freeh investigates alleged misconduct by a lawyer who worked for claims administrator Patrick Juneau on the settlement program.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said he was troubled by the allegations but didn't see any reason to take the "drastic step" of shutting down the program without evidence of widespread fraud.
Lionel H. Sutton III, a target of Freeh's probe, allegedly received a portion of settlement proceeds for claims he referred to a law firm before joining Juneau's staff.
Sutton, who resigned on June 21, has denied the allegations. Sutton's wife, Christine Reitano, who also worked as a lawyer for the settlement program, had her contract terminated June 26.
Barbier lashed out at critics who have questioned Juneau's objectivity and have tried to portray the Lafayette-based lawyer as a "good ol' boy" who is beholden to plaintiffs' attorneys.
"I find the recent attacks on Mr. Juneau's character are highly offensive, inappropriate," Barbier said.
Barbier said he found it "especially offensive" that BP CEO Robert Dudley claimed during an interview televised by CNBC on Thursday that the settlement process has been "hijacked."
Read the full story at the Huffington Post>>
National Fisherman Live: 12/16/14
In this episode, Bruce Buls, WorkBoat's technical editor, interviews Long Island lobsterman John Aldridge, who survived for 12 hours after falling overboard in the dead of night. Aldridge was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Pacific Marine Expo, which took place Nov. 19-21 in Seattle.
NOAA, in consultation with the Department of the Interior, has appointed 10 new members to the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee. The 20-member committee is composed of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experience who advise the departments of commerce and the interior on ways to strengthen and connect the nation's MPA programs. The new members join the 10 continuing members appointed in 2012.