A federal judge has appointed former FBI Director Louis Freeh to investigate whether there have been ethical violations or other misconduct committed by staff for the claims administrator who is paying out money from BP’s settlement with victims of the Gulf oil spill.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said Tuesday that while the administrator, Patrick Juneau, is conducting an internal probe, he believes an external, independent inquiry is needed to ensure the integrity of the settlement program.
Barbier said Freeh’s duties will be limited to finding out whether there have been any ethical violations or other misconduct in Juneau’s office, examining and evaluating the internal compliance program and anti-corruption controls within the settlement program, and making any necessary recommendations.
Criminal case: Second delay sought in trial against former BP exec
Freeh’s appointment follows the recent disclosure that a staff attorney working for Juneau in connection with the settlement program resigned over allegations of impropriety.
The settlement was with thousands of individuals and businesses harmed by the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. BP initially estimated the deal would cost $7.8 billion, but has stopped estimating its total exposure because of a dispute over how Juneau is calculating business economic loss claims.
A federal appeals court hearing is set for Monday in New Orleans in connection with that dispute.
Freeh is chairman of a consulting firm, Freeh Group International Solutions, and is also chairman of the executive committee of a law firm, Pepper Hamilton.
In a disclosure form filed with the order appointing him to investigate the spill claims administrator’s office, Freeh said his business relationships have crossed paths with several of the parties in the spill case, including BP, Halliburton and Anadarko. Freeh said one of his former law partners has served as an ombudsmen for BP America, the British oil giant’s U.S. unit.
In a statement, BP called Freeh’s probe “an essential step in assuring public confidence” in the settlement program.
Read ongoing FuelFix coverage of the legal trials surrounding the Gulf of Mexico oil spill:
- BP warns some Gulf oil spill claimants may have to give money back (June 26)
- Plaintiffs ask judge to impose punitive damages over spill (June 21)
- Judge won’t reconsider dismissed charge against ex-BP executive (June 21)
- BP calls for independent probe of claims lawyer (June 21)
- New indictments issued in Gulf oil spill case (June 19)