BP has painted claims administrator Pat Juneau as a scapegoat to provide cover for the company’s own failure to accurately predict the Settlement’s price tag. The company exaggerated a very isolated and alleged conflict of interest between two lawyers in the program and the processing of claims filed by their former law firm to tarnish Mr. Juneau’s sterling reputation and shut down the processing of claims. Judge Barbier appointed Mr. Louis J. Freeh as Special Master to investigate BP’s claims, and recently, Mr. Freeh released his report.
Mr. Freeh concluded the two lawyers had an impermissible existing conflict of interest. Whether any wrongful conduct actually occurred is for the appropriate authorities and the courts to decide. Importantly, Mr. Freeh’s ultimate conclusions contradict BP’s assertions of a lawless, out-of-control claims process. Instead Mr. Freeh stated that “… the Special Master has not found evidence that Mr. Patrick Juneau engaged in any conflict of interest, or unethical or improper conduct. And while certain conduct of Claims Administration Office (CAO) employees … is problematic, this should not prevent the DHECC from fairly and efficiently processing and paying honest and legitimate claims in a timely manner.”
What about BP’s contentions about widespread manipulation and corruption of claims in the Facility? “The Special Master did not find any evidence that either Mr. Sutton or Ms. Reitano [the attorneys in question] directly manipulated the valuation of claims by accessing the DHECC database. The Special Master also did not find any evidence of such manipulation by other CAO officials.” Moreover, Mr. Freeh found that Mr. Juneau had properly conveyed his expectations to CAO staff, and outlined his expectations and key policies in signed employment agreements with his personnel.
While some of Mr. Freeh’s findings are potentially troubling, the Court and Mr. Juneau did the right thing by quickly freezing the claims in question, identifying potential conflicts, and retaining a respected third party investigator to assess fact from fiction. Predictably, BP’s accusations were (again) proven to be more fiction than fact.
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