Lawyers to OK contract changes in 'Big Oil' suit

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 20, 2013 at 12:20 pm •  Published: December 20, 2013

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Attorneys suing 97 oil and gas companies on behalf of a New Orleans-area levee board have agreed to modify their contract to trim the amount they would receive if they succeed with the suit.

The Advocate reports ( the lawyers also agreed to remove elements of the contract that critics have said give them too much control over the process.

One change under the agreement: If an energy company is forced to rebuild wetlands, the law firm will not be paid a share of the cost of the rebuilding.

The agreement was proposed by the Jones Swanson law firm a month ago in a letter sent to the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, but made public after a closed-door session Thursday, according to ( ).

Commissioner Stephen Estopinal said the changes would focus on four elements of the contract and were proposed "unilaterally" by the attorneys working on the case.

The provision dropping awards to the attorneys that would come as a result of restoration projects, rather than from cash awards, had been criticized as potentially taking money away from efforts to repair the coast.

The changes would not drop a so-called "poison pill" that requires the authority to pay the lawyers for their time and expenses if the board drops the case or is forced to stop pursuing it because of actions by the Legislature. Supporters of the suit have said that provision is necessary to prevent political meddling in the case.

However, the new provisions would limit the amount the attorneys would receive under that scenario.

Previously, officials had suggested the lawyers would get repaid for about seven months of work they did laying the groundwork for the case at the request of flood protection authority commissioners. Under the altered agreement, the authority is expected to be required to repay only the costs of work done since the contract was signed in July.

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