Judge refuses to halt payouts to victims of BP spill

A federal judge refused Friday to temporarily shut down a multibillion-dollar settlement program for compensating victims of BP's 2010 Gulf oil spill, saying he has seen no evidence of widespread fraud among the tens of thousands of claims.
By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN Modified: July 19, 2013 at 9:58 pm •  Published: July 20, 2013
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“I find the recent attacks on Mr. Juneau's character are highly offensive, inappropriate,” Barbier said.

Barbier said he found it “especially offensive” that BP CEO Robert Dudley claimed during an interview televised by CNBC on Thursday that the settlement process has been “hijacked.”

“Personal attacks, hyperbole and use of such language in my opinion crosses the line,” he said.

BP says there is a risk that hundreds of millions of dollars in claims payments could be tainted by fraud.

“We didn't sign up for a deal in which this type of corruption would enter the program,” BP attorney Jeff Clark told Barbier before he ruled.

Plaintiffs' attorneys say the company hasn't provided any evidence that Juneau has improperly paid any claims.

BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said the company disagreed with Barbier's ruling and would review its legal options.

Clark, the company's attorney, said BP's request to halt payments until after the investigation was relatively modest because in many cases it won't be possible to recoup fraudulent payments.

Rick Stanley, one of Juneau's lawyers, said BP's request to suspend all payments was unnecessary.