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Deepwater Horizon case lawyers penalized as BP profits slide

Environmental groups rallied in Feb of 2013 at the start of the BP civil trial in New Orleans.
Environmental groups rallied in Feb of 2013 at the start of the BP civil trial in New Orleans.
Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

BP reported its first quarter earnings last week and the news wasn't great for the beleaguered oil giant.

But before I go there, this examiner likes to give credit where it's due and that would be to local journalist and blogger, Jason Berry, who publishes The American Zombie out of New Orleans. Berry apparently published some letters indicating that not all BP oil spill claims were treated equally by the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee, with some claims being expedited and given priority over others.

This goes against the terms of the settlement, which dictates payment according to order of submission. Apparently, dozens of claims were pushed to the front of the line in the claims process.

Now back to BP, whose first-quarter earnings slid an impressive 23.5 percent over the same period last year.

In its press release, issued Apr. 29, the company said,

Excluding Russia, underlying production was slightly lower than a year earlier as higher output from new projects in the North Sea, Angola and Gulf of Mexico was offset by turnaround activity in Angola and lower production elsewhere. Reported production, excluding Russia, was 8.5% lower reflecting both the expiry in January of the onshore concession in Abu Dhabi and the impact of divestments.

Meanwhile, lawyers Lionel Sutton and Glen Lerner, the former previously with the Deepwater Horizon Court Supervised Settlement Program, were ordered last week by Judge Carl Barbier to repay their fees for a fraudulent claim by a commercial shrimp fisherman, Casey Thonn, who had to repay $357K himself. Lerner had represented Thonn through the firm of Andry Lerner.

The lawyers deny wrongdoing, even though they had been accused of ethical violations in connection with this individual during the claims process.

All of this drama occurs as civil penalties have yet to be assessed.

In January of 2015 the third phase of the trial, the penalty phase, will begin in NOLA.

Bold marks and hyperlinks are those of the examiner's.

An earlier version of this story referrred to the CSSP lawyer and Lerner as PSC lawyers. The examiner regrets the error. Also, an earlier version said that the attorneys had to repay $375K, but that was the amount Thonn had to repay.