Top officials leave BP oil spill claims office

HOUSTON – BP’s latest full-page newspaper ad suggests the departures of two senior officials who administered payments to victims of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill are evidence of “mounting problems” at the claims office.

In the ads, which ran Monday in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, BP claimed that the chief executive and the chief operating officers of the settlement program resigned from their posts last week.

The London oil producer also alleged in its ad that the resignations came “after reports that they had been entertaining their subordinates at a New Orleans strip club,” which “was awarded more than $550,000 during the period they were frequenting it.”

BP declined to comment further and would not identify the strip club, which is a claimant in the settlement agreement.

Chief claims administrator Patrick Juneau confirmed the resignations in an email, writing that BP Claims Administration Office CEO David Odom and COO Kirk Fisher wanted to “move on to other business opportunities.”

“Their resignations have no effect on the claims review process,” Juneau wrote in the email, adding that the office has been working with the court, BP and attorneys for oil spill victims to replace the officials. He did not comment on BP’s other allegations.

BP reached a multibillion-dollar settlement with thousands of oil spill victims last year. But in recent months, the company has been escalating attacks on the claims administrators, alleging fraud and dubious paymentsoften using ad space in the nation’s largest newspapers.

According to the British oil giant, the departure Odom and Fisher brings the number of senior program officials who have “resigned or been terminated” since the program began in mid-2012 to five out of 10.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who is leading an independent investigation of the BP claims administration office, said in a September report that “actual and apparent conflicts of interest involved the most senior officials” of the claims office. But he found no wrongdoing on the part of Juneau, who has set an “ethical ‘tone at the top.'”

BP said Freeh’s next report is expected early next year.

BP has made $3.8 billion in settlement payments since July 2012, according to Juneau.