NEW ORLEANS: A federal judge on Wednesday ordered BP to pay more than $130 million in fees to the court-supervised administrator of its multibillion-dollar settlement with Gulf Coast businesses and residents after the company's 2010 oil spill.
The ruling from US District Judge Carl Barbier comes as BP tries to temporarily block claims payments while former FBI Director Louis Freeh investigates allegations of misconduct by an attorney who worked on the settlement program. BP also has complained of broader problems in the program run by court-appointed claims administrator Patrick Juneau.
The dispute over Juneau's administrative expenses is just the latest chapter in BP's increasingly aggressive campaign to challenge his handling of the claims process. Separately, the company has accused him and Barbier, who is overseeing the oil spill settlement, of misinterpreting the settlement in a manner that could force the company to pay billions of dollars in what it says are inflated and fictitious claims by businesses.
In his ruling Wednesday, Barbier said Juneau needs to submit his budget proposals earlier than he has been. But he concluded that BP's refusal to pay for the settlement program's third-quarter budget wasn't reasonable.
"My primary concern is that we don't allow these issues to cause a shutdown of the claims facility," Barbier said.
His ruling upheld that of US Magistrate Sally Shushan, who earlier Wednesday ordered BP to pay the fees after hearing arguments by a company attorney, Juneau and one of the private plaintiffs' attorneys who brokered the deal. When BP appealed Shushan's decision, Barbier summoned the parties to his courtroom for another hearing.
In a letter Monday, BP claims official Maria Travis said Juneau's office hasn't provided adequate documentation for the money it requested. Travis also alleged that the program has been plagued by poor productivity and excessive costs.