Former FBI director to probe Gulf spill claims administrator’s office

A judge 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 doling out money from BP’s Gulf oil spill victims’ settlement. (Associated Press)

A judge 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 doling out money from BP’s Gulf oil spill victims’ settlement. (Associated Press)

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.

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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.

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