Feds challenge credibility of former BP executive

U.S. officials say a former BP executive was paid $107,000 a month to do consulting for a company lawyer, but allege the money may have been designed to influence her testimony during a deposition in litigation over the Gulf oil spill.

The allegations were made in a court filing Tuesday by government lawyers who want to challenge her credibility at trial with the compensation details. The filing says she was “responsible in great part for actively preventing” implementation of essential safety programs on such rigs as the Deepwater Horizon that exploded, killing 11 workers and prompting the spill.

Her name was redacted from the document, and a related exhibit was filed under seal.

The government says before she was deposed, she was hired as a consultant to a BP attorney, but she did little to earn her fee.

BP spokeswoman Ellen Moskowitz said in an email to The Associated Press that the London-based company had no comment. It previously argued the disaster resulted from a cascade of failures by multiple companies, not the actions of one or two officials who worked for BP.

The Deepwater Horizon was owned by Transocean and was being leased by BP while the oil giant prepared to abandon a well it had drilled a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico. The rig exploded off Louisiana on April 20, 2010, leading to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed over the spill, and a civil trial designed to assign shares of fault to the companies involved in the disaster is scheduled for Feb. 27 in federal court in New Orleans. The trial also is meant to determine whether rig owner Transocean can limit what it pays those making claims under maritime law.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said Tuesday that a possible settlement could be reached before the start of the trial.

For right now, however, lawyers are preparing as if the trial will go forward and are filing motions related to evidence, witnesses and testimony.

The U.S. government, which has accused BP previously of being evasive, has a big stake in the outcome of the litigation.

In their filing Tuesday, Justice Department lawyers say they should be able to use compensation details to show bias on the part of the former BP executive and other witnesses who may testify. They want a judge to allow such details to be weighed on a case by case basis, rather than be excluded across the board as BP has requested.

“There are instances where employee compensation is relevant to bias, credibility, or other issues, such as active efforts by BP — or certainly the appearance of such efforts — to hide evidence under the guise of faux privilege,” the lawyers wrote.

A Justice spokesman declined to comment on the filing beyond what was included in it.

12 Comments

  1. traintrack

    whats really sad is things have gotten sooo bad,I’m not buying anything the gov’t. has to say…….

    #1
  2. CAD1936

    On one side its called buying a witness. On the other side of the coin its called selling your integrity.

    #2
  3. SAVE OUR ENVIRONMENT

    Sickening 1%rs.

    #3
  4. Trail_Tramp

    USA Today July 2010: “James Lee Witt, the former FEMA director who built his reputation responding to disasters, is poised to become the latest big name on a team of Washington insiders that BP has amassed to help it respond to the Gulf Coast oil spill, rescue its reputation and protect itself from lawsuits…The list, which includes several prominent Democrats now working on behalf of a company…Once he finalizes a contract, Witt will join other power brokers including Jamie Gorelick, a former Clinton administration Justice Department official and 9/11 commissioner, and Tony Podesta, lobbyist extraordinaire and brother of former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta…Some watchdog groups say it’s alarming that so many Democrats are to be paid by BP…Some longtime Democrats, however, say having some of their own on the inside will work to the greater good…”This is an enormous challenge and it doesn’t matter who they hire to contain the spill, clean up the mess and compensate those who have lost so much,” says veteran Democratic strategist Donna Brazile.”

    #4
  5. dabear

    Get your title right! 170K then its a 107k in the article. Don’t you guys know what proof reading is?

    #5
  6. Jenny

    Oooh, I wonder if they were bribing her?

    #6
  7. Dan X. McGraw

    It’s been dabear. Thanks

    #7
  8. jukester

    So the learning from the government claim then, is that everyone who is employed and being paid for their work each day, has no integrity (as one poster here has stated), is ‘selling their soul’, is being bribed on a daily basis? Bunk, all of it. This is nothing more than legal manuevering by the government lawyers, trying to squeeze more dollars out of the involved companies. If you want to question ethics, then question the MMS and other regulatory bodies of the US Governement!

    #8
  9. Jerry

    As usual if you have money nothing happens to you…

    #9
  10. J

    It’ll come back to bite them all in the butt.

    #10
  11. Greg in TX City

    Since when is it a crime to earn a large salary; unless you are a mafia boss? If you want to complain about crooks earning large salaries without working for them, you can start with the members of congress.

    #11
  12. Tex

    It is OK to earn a large salary when you are qualified. Was this ececutive qualified holding the job she did when the Horizon incident happened?

    #12