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2014-09-25 20:45:00

BP LOSES COMPENSATION $7.8 BLN

BP LOSES COMPENSATION $7.8 BLN

BP 's attempts to reclaim what it describes as excessive compensation payments for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster have been rejected by a US court, in a further setback to the company's hopes of limiting the cost of the accident.

Judge Carl Barbier at the US District Court in New Orleans on Wednesday rejected BP's call for the return of hundreds of millions of dollars of "excess" compensation payments under its settlement for victims of the oil spill.

The company immediately said it would appeal against his ruling, saying it had upheld windfalls for claimants who "have been paid money they didn't deserve for losses they didn't suffer".

The decision is the latest turn in a long court battle over the methods used to calculate compensation under the settlement it agreed in 2012 with plaintiffs seeking damages over the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Partial success for BP in earlier rulings meant that Patrick Juneau, the court-appointed administrator of claims, had to change his policy on calculating compensation for business losses, making the method used less generous.

BP argued that change meant that awards made under the previous system were too high, and should be repaid with interest.

The company submitted to the court a report from an accountant who had reviewed some of the awards and calculated what they would have been under the new policy. He cited examples including a seller of animal skins, awarded a $16.9m payment that was $14m too high under the new rules, and a construction company hundreds of miles from the Gulf of Mexico that received a $13.2m payment that was $8.4m too high.

However, Judge Barbier ruled that the terms of the release clause that claimants signed when they agreed their awards meant that BP could not later come back and demand repayment.

The release specifies that "it is possible that the terms of the proposed settlement may change in the future – for better or for worse – as a result of further legal proceedings".

It adds: "However, if you sign this Individual Release, none of those uncertain future events will affect you."

BP had argued that the settlement itself had not changed, only its interpretation; an approach the judge described as "classic hair-splitting".

Lawyers for the plaintiffs also pointed out that in a previous attempt to persuade courts to block compensation awards, BP had argued that it could not "feasibly" sue all the claimants who had received excessive payments.

Meanwhile, BP is still fighting to overturn earlier decisions in the district and appeals courts that went against it on the question of which businesses were eligible for compensation under the settlement. It is trying to persuade the US Supreme Court to hear its case, a bid that has been backed by the British government.

The Supreme Court is expected to say in November whether or not it will hear the case.

BP originally estimated the cost of the settlement at $7.8bn, but now expects it to be significantly more than $9.2bn. BP's London-listed shares traded at more than 650p in 2010 before falling by more than half after the spill. They closed at 465p on Wednesday.

ft.com

Tags: BP, US, GULF, MEXICO, OIL

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