After two years of fighting it, BP has agreed to pay the remaining $1 billion of its previously reached $2.3 billion settlement to shrimpers, fisherman, oysterman and seafood processors following the oil spill in 2010.
A federal judge in New Orleans allowed BP to drop its bid to avoid paying the remaining settlement on May 2.
“We have withdrawn our claims seeking an injunction against payments by the Seafood Program so the program can be concluded,” BP spokesman Geoff Morrell told Bloomberg last week.
BP accepted blame for their part in an environmental disaster back in 2010, in which its oil rig off the coast of Louisiana dumped 4 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The spill affected five states and has cost the company more than $56 billion thus far.
The company agreed to a settlement in the aftermath of the event, which was to pay a total of $2.3 billion to fisheries and businesses whose livelihoods had been effected due to the spill.
After paying $1 billion of the aforementioned payout, BP contested the agreement after discovering irregularities in a law firm’s client list. BP claimed lawyers representing Southeast Asian immigrant fisherman were exaggerating the number of clients.
At the time, the public viewed this as BP attempting to rid itself of the lawsuit and settlement payments. As it turns out, BP’s hunch was correct.
Texas attorney Mikal Watts claimed to represent more than 40,000 Vietnamese-American boat captains and crew members that had been affected by the spill. BP claims that Watts added over a hundred million dollars in damages to the lawsuit for clients that didn’t even exist.
An investigation into the client list by federal prosecutors revealed that Watts had in fact rigged the suit with hundreds of fake names, including Social Security numbers and other information. The Texas attorney used contact and personal information of the deceased, and has been indicted for his crime.
In response, BP has agreed to pay its remaining stipend to the Seafood Program, but filed a separate lawsuit against Watts.
The San Antonio-based attorney also faces a lawsuit filed by Tammy Tran, a spokeswoman for many in the Gulf Coast Vietnamese community. Tran states that because of Watts’ actions, other Gulf Coast Vietnamese Americans that may seek suit against BP will not be taken seriously.
In dropping its contestation of the Seafood Program lawsuit, BP has taken a small step toward paying its dues for its part in the 2010 disaster; however, it's not nearly done.
Often, the aftereffects of an environmental disaster are not felt for years. BP will likely face further lawsuits in the future tied to the event.
According to the Wall Street Journal, in a recent board meeting CFO Brian Gilvary told company analysts he was unaware how high the expenses will go. This is all coming at a rough time for the company, as the price of crude oil has dropped significantly over the past year.
Residents near the Gulf in Southeast Texas and beyond will likely feel little sympathy.