Editorial: Which public? BP’s public appeals look fishy in light of the facts
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jul 04, 2013 | 3040 views |  0 comments | 66 66 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Acknowledging the power of the press, BP has placed full-page advertisements in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post to alert readers that “trial lawyers and some politicians” are encouraging Gulf Coast businesses to make inflated or fraudulent claims for damages and losses from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Although BP claims that the ad is part of its ongoing effort to keep the public informed, let’s note that the ads are not running in Gulf Coast newspapers, even though those papers are read by people who need to be informed of BP’s position. That includes thousands of Alabamians.

To be clear, things have not been going well for BP down there.

A court-appointed claims administrator took a look at the settlement to which BP had agreed and ruled that it allowed many more claims than BP had estimated. So BP, to head off the cash flow that was sure to follow, appealed that interpretation.

Last April, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier upheld the claims administrator’s interpretation of the settlement terms. BP is appealing that ruling.

In addition, BP is calling for an independent investigation into alleged misconduct on the part of an attorney working on the claims administrator’s staff. Although the attorney subsequently resigned, it is not clear if this has any bearing on the legitimacy of the claims.

Meanwhile, a trial is under way that will identify the cause of the well blowout and determine the percentage of the damages the companies involved must pay. This makes the timing of the ads all the more interesting.

A year ago, BP estimated that it would spend nearly $8 billion to resolve the claims by individuals and businesses. Now, because of claims it never anticipated, the company says it cannot give a reliable estimate.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the BP appeal claim the oil giant is simply having a case of “buyer’s remorse because it guessed wrong on the cost of the deal.” BP, on the other hand, is claiming that it is “wrong for anyone to take money they don’t deserve” and all it is doing is trying to prevent this.

The company also claims that “litigation over this issue has not in any way changed our commitment to the Gulf.”

Maybe so.

No doubt there have been businesses and residents who have tried to fraudulently take advantage of the situation. These should be dealt with individuality.

However, to repeatedly appeal rulings that have consistently gone against the company makes it appear BP is doing a bit of “court shopping” in hopes for finding a judge who will rule in its favor. And now, to cover all bases, the company turns to the court of public opinion while avoiding the public most affected by what happened.

When the spill occurred, BP officials promised to “make things right” along the Gulf Coast. Appeals and ads make it appear that the company, not the coast, is BP’s main concern.
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