The real shareholders: Halliburton’s oil-spill settlement must help those who lost so much
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
May 02, 2013 | 3883 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The wheels of justice often turn slowly, but they do turn. And at last it appears one more of the companies accused of being responsible for the 2010 BP oil spill is eager to reach a settlement rather than letting a federal judge decide the case.

BP and Transocean have already reached settlements with the Justice Department, leaving only the case of Halliburton, the cement contractor on the drilling rig, unresolved. BP had blamed Halliburton for the failure of the cement to seal the oil well; Halliburton has blamed BP for cutting corners that allowed the blowout to happen.

Halliburton now is in negotiations with the federal government to reach a settlement in the case.

During the trial, which began Feb. 25, it was revealed that Halliburton had not turned over cement samples to the federal government for testing after the spill. As a result of that discovery, the company’s defense was significantly weakened.

“They looked terrible,” said David Uhlmann, former chief of the U.S. Department of Justice’s environmental crimes section.

With that, Halliburton’s incentive to settle became greater, and so talks began.

The company’s priorities are clear. “We are working hard to come to a reasonable settlement that would be in the best interest of our shareholders,” Halliburton president and CEO David Lesar said.

This page hopes the Justice Department’s priorities are equally clear and that its lawyers are working hard to achieve a settlement that will be in the best interest of those individuals and companies along the Gulf Coast whose lives and property were affected by the spill. They are “shareholders” as well, and they deserve to be fully compensated.

Meanwhile, the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi have all filed spill-related lawsuits. Negotiations between the Justice Department and Halliburton should not jeopardize those cases in any way.

When evaluating the damage and settling the claims, Halliburton may be looking out for its shareholders, but in the line of those whose interests must be protected, Halliburton shareholders should be placed close to the rear.
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