BP facing fraud lawsuits over oil spill

Two lawsuits have been filed against BP alleging violations of the Rackteer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute in connection with the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The first lawsuit, a class action filed on behalf of US residents affected by the oil spill, was filed last week and alleges that BP engaged in a scheme to secure profits by deceiving the public.

According to the complaint, BP committed a pattern of criminal acts, including bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud in order to deceive the public as to its ability to safely drill for oil and to contain oil in the event of a spill. Plaintiffs in the first suit are seeking compensatory relief, as well as injunctive relief requiring BP to comply with provisions of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA).

The second suit, filed June 28, alleges that BP has been involved in racketeering and corruption related to the BP claims payment process. According to the complaint, BP has been involved in corruption, wire fraud, mail fraud, unauthorized practice of law, violation of state insurances laws and regulations and other criminal activity in order to delay or reduce the payment of legitimate claims for damages. Plaintiffs are seeking damages and a writ of quo warranto ordering defendants to stop engaging in unauthorized practice of law and other criminal conduct.

From Jurist, June 29. Used with permission.

See our last posts on BP, the offshore drilling controversy and the politics of oil spills.


  1. House approves bill increasing compensation for oil spill victim
    The US House of Representatives on June 30 approved a bill that would increase compensation for injured workers and victims’ families that have filed claims against BP as a result of the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The bill marks the first piece of legislation passed by the House in response to the oil spill. The Securing Protections for the Injured from Limitations on Liability (SPILL) Act would change several laws applying to legal liability on the high seas. The jurisdiction of the 1920 Death on the High Seas Act [text], which allows families of decedents to bring a civil action in federal court, would be extended from three to 12 miles from the US coastline. The amendment would also allow the families of workers who died in the BP oil rig explosion to file a claim for both compensatory and punitive damages, including pain and suffering and loss of companionship. SPILL also amends the 1920 Jones Act to allow recovery for loss of care, comfort and companionship by a individual injured in the course of employment at sea. Representative John Conyers (D-MI) sponsored the bill, calling the previous legislation “ancient” and “outdated.” Some Republicans argued that the bill was too broad because it covers all companies operating on the high seas but did not act to block its passage. Representatives from both parties did agree on at least one issue—that companies directly responsible for the Gulf oil spill should not be allowed to limit damages under outdated laws. The House passed the bill on a voice vote, and was therefore not recorded. The bill will now go before the US Senate. (Jurist, July 2)

  2. Amazon leaders visit BP-devastated Gulf Coast
    From Facing South, July 1:

    Delegation from oil-afflicted Amazon visits Louisiana tribes hit by BP disaster
    A delegation of indigenous and community leaders from Ecuador is visiting Louisiana this week at the invitation of the United Houma Nation, a tribe in coastal Lafourche and Terrebone parishes that has been hit hard by the BP oil catastrophe. The Ecuadoreans have come to share lessons they’ve learned dealing with another oil disaster: U.S. oil companies’ dumping of toxic waste in the Amazon rainforest.

    From 1964 until it pulled out in 1992, Texaco—which merged with Chevron a decade ago—dumped some 17 million gallons of crude oil and 20 billion gallons of drilling waste water into waterways and pits in the Ecuadorean Amazon. The contamination has seeped into water supplies, where it’s killed fish and is blamed for health problems among local residents, who suffer from elevated rates of cancers, reproductive disorders and respiratory ailments.

    At a town hall meeting set for Thursday, July 1, in Dulac, La., the delegation will discuss a report about their experiences back home. Titled “The Lasting Stain of Oil: Cautionary Tales and Lessons From the Amazon,” it offers advice for holding polluters accountable and planning for long-term recovery after severe environmental contamination.

    “Although BP says that it plans to take full responsibility for the damages caused by its spill and restore the Gulf Coast to the way it was before, the experience in Ecuador shows that oil companies do the right thing only when compelled to do so by a combination of political, financial, media, and community pressure,” according to the report, which was prepared by the Asamblea de Afectados por Texaco (Assembly of Those Affected by Texaco), along with Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch.

  3. Alabama AG sues BP over Gulf oil spill
    Alabama Attorney General Troy King on Aug. 12 filed a lawsuit against BP for damages to the state’s coast and economy, claiming that the oil giant has failed in its efforts to accept responsibility for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. King filed an additional lawsuit in the federal district court in Montgomery against Transocean, Halliburton and other companies associated with the oil spill on similar claims. The attorney general is seeking economic and punitive damages from the companies for negligent or wanton failure to adhere to recognized industry standards. The amount of damages being sought has not been specified. The lawsuits were opposed by Alabama Governor Bob Riley (R), who had hoped to settle the dispute outside of the courtroom. (Jurist, Aug. 13)

  4. Halliburton seeks extension in oil spill defense
    Halliburton Energy Services and several other companies being sued in connection with April’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico filed a request on Oct. 1 seeking more time to prepare their defense. The motion, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, seeks to postpone the trial until 2012 citing a need resolve limitation and liability allocation issues. US District Judge Carl Barbier has not yet issued a decision on the request. In August, the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation selected Barbier to hear more than 300 lawsuits filed against BP and other defendants in connection with the Deepwater Horizon accident.

    Halliburton and other companies are also being sued in Montgomery, Ala., by Alabama Attorney General Troy King. In August, BP and the US Department of Justice announced the completion of negotiations over the implementation of a $20 billion fund to aid victims of the oil spill. Numerous lawsuits are pending against BP in connection with the spill. (Jurist, Oct. 2)

  5. Environmental groups sue BP
    Environmental advocacy groups Defenders of Wildlife, Gulf Restoration Network and Save the Manatee Club filed a federal lawsuit Oct. 20 against BP for the ongoing harm to endangered and threatened wildlife caused by the company’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The suit, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), holds that at least 27 endangered animal species inhabiting the Gulf were harmed by the oil spill. The filing specifically discusses the harm caused to sea turtles, whale species, birds and manatees.The complaint cites testimony given in September by oceanographer Ian McDonald to the National Oil Spill Commission where he stated that more than 50% of the total discharge of oil from the spill remains in the Gulf ecosystem. An attorney for the Defenders of Wildlife commented on the necessity of the suit, stating, “The harmful effects of the BP oil well blowout on endangered and threatened wildlife will continue for many years. Through this lawsuit, we ask the court to compel BP to provide the resources necessary to ensure imperiled species in the Gulf recover from this disaster.” (Jurist, Oct. 21)

  6. DoJ sues BP over Gulf oil spill
    The US Department of Justice filed suit Dec. 15 against units of British Petroleum (BP) and several other companies over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, seeks civil penalties under the Clean Water Act and asks the court to declare eight of the defendants liable without limitation under the Oil Pollution Act for all removal costs and damages caused by the oil spill, including damages to natural resources. The defendants include BP Exploration and Production Inc.; Anadarko Exploration & Production LP and Anadarko Petroleum Corporation; MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC, Triton Asset Leasing GMBH, Transocean Holdings LLC, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc. and Transocean Deepwater Inc.; and BP’s insurer, QBE Underwriting Ltd./Lloyd’s Syndicate 1036. Announcing the lawsuit, US Attorney General Eric Holder said:

    We intend to prove that these defendants are responsible for government removal costs, economic losses, and environmental damages without limitation. Even though the spill has been contained, the Department’s focus on investigating this disaster and preventing future devastation has not wavered. Both our civil and criminal investigations continue, and our work to ensure that the American taxpayers are not forced to bear the costs of restoring the gulf area and its economy is moving forward.

    No dollar amount has been placed on the suit, as damages could take years to calculate, and a DOJ spokesperson said that additional defendants and claims could be added later. (Jurist, Dec. 15)