BP-Lack of Louisiana Ethics in Gulf Oil Claim Settlements

Ethics in Louisiana Politics?

Recent activities related to BP oil claims settlements begin to “shine the light” on the administration Emeril gets fat on BP millionsof claims in Louisiana. BP seems to think the entire process is a joke. As an indication of the problems they are encountering with the lack of Louisiana ethics they recently took out a full-page ad in the New York Times blasting famed New Orleans chef Emeril Lagasse. His restaurant management company has filed an $8 million loss claim with BP. Spokesmen for Lagasse’s management company explained their claim meets the “legal requirements” as set out by BP. Time will tell us if these “legal requirements” will cause long-term damage to Lagasse’s ethical reputation.

In September ’09 former FBI director Louis Freeh was selected by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to perform an independent probe of the BP’s settlement program for its 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster. Freeh’s recommended that his report be forwarded to the Justice Department for a more in depth investigation.

Freeh did not find any specific instances and cleared claims administrator Patrick Juneau of engaging in any “conflict of interest, or unethical or improper conduct.” However Freeh did conclude that several members of Juneau’s top staff did engage in conduct that was “improper, unethical and possibly criminal. Juneau explained this conduct was isolated to just a few members of his top staff. His remarks beg the question “exactly how many top managers does it take for it to be a significant problem?

Of course recognizing that this is indeed Louisiana, two of the officials mentioned think BP is “distorting” the facts. Several of those identified in Freeh’s report tendered their resignations to “pursue other opportunities.” It will be interesting to see if these “new opportunities” occur with companies that received significant BP settlement claims. To protect their “honor and reputation” they have brought in lawyers, just in case someone actually attempts to hold them accountable for their “perceived” misconduct.

US District Judge Carl Barbier
US District Judge Carl Barbier

The federal judge appointed to oversee the BP settlements, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier has an extensive background in Louisiana politics. He grew up in New Orleans & graduated from Loyola Law School. All of his experience in law is based on Louisiana politics. Now why would anyone think his actions, while technically legal are ethically horrible?

Patrick Juneau announced his resignation last week I feel certain to “pursue other opportunities.” I feel certain he will like his former staff bring on a lawyer to “protect his reputation!” In the meantime aDavid Welker named interim CEO for BP's Claim program. former FBI supervisor, David Welker will be taking over as the interim CEO for settlement claims. Hopefully he will finally send us in the “moral & ethical” direction that we all know is correct.

If as expected BP continues their appeal of Judge Barbier’s rulings and it moves out of the Louisiana regulatory environment, what can we expect? Once again Louisiana and its legal sewer system we will once again make national headlines! We all know what is going on in the political system at the state and local levels. We kid ourselves into believing it doesn’t happen at our district federal levels. Check the backgrounds of the judges – they grew up in Louisiana, they were educated in Louisiana, and they practiced law in Louisiana. They are the “elite” members of the “Good Ole Boys” politicians that have run our state for years.

We can stop this. It only takes one vote, yours! Together we can make a difference.

By Ron G. Cheek, PhD

College Entrepreneurship Professor, Serial Entrepreneur, Social Media Expert, & True Lover of the State of Louisiana

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