Gulf oil spill lawyer is suspended for alleged BP scam
Nikhil Kumar is The Independent's New York correspondent. He was formerly assistant editor on the foreign desk and has also done a variety of jobs on the city desk, where he wrote about markets, commodities and other business and economics topics.
Saturday 22 June 2013
Allegations of misconduct have surfaced against a lawyer working for the administrator charged with assessing claims connected to BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Lionel Sutton, a staff lawyer working for the court-appointed administrator Patrick Juneau, was reportedly suspended after allegations that he had personally collected portions of settlement payouts from a local law firm in New Orleans. He is accused of once having referred claims to the same firm.
According to the report, whose contents were first revealed by the Associated Press, Mr Juneau’s head of security had received a complaint about the staff lawyer.
The compensation claims at the centre of the allegations were filed on behalf of a single party, and reportedly involved hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The allegations of misconduct come as BP challenges the way Mr Juneau determines damages claims. The company has gone to court, arguing for an order to stop the administrator from paying out damages that it says are based on inflated claims.
The payments, BP argued before US District Judge Carl Barbier, are not covered by the settlement that is meant to resolve health and economic loss claims stemming from the oil spill.
In an email to the AP, Mr Sutton said he had been suspended “pending an investigation of an anonymous allegation against me”.
“I have not been made away of the substance of the allegation or the status of the investigation,” he added.
BP, meanwhile, called for an independent probe.
“We are very concerned about these allegations and believe that only a comprehensive and independent investigation will ensure the integrity of the claims process,” the company said.
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