Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Staff lawyer at BP’Gulf Spill Fund Under Investigation

Louis Freeh, former FBI Director
Judge Carl Barbier has entered an order appointing a special master to investigate the conduct of a former staff attorney for the Gulf Coast, Deepwater Horizon Court Supervised Claims Program.  what some have described as "kickbacks".  It is not clear what the possible violation is that Judge Barbier has asked former FBI Director Louis Freeh to investigate.  If it is for accepting referral fees, without work participation, it could mean trouble for the attorney.  If he has given favorable treatment to the category of claims made by his clients it could be catastrophic.

As a Certified Civil Trial Attorney in New Jersey under state Supreme Court rules I was allowed to share fees without regard to who did the work and who advanced the costs.  I have always felt that the referring attorney is entitled to share in the fee.  The originating attorney's reputation, advertising, and screening are not cost free so the  referring attorney should be allowed to have part of the fee, despite RPC 1.5 which requires work participation or joint responsibility for the case.

There are many disputes about how attorneys fees should be divided in the massive settlement.  Judge Carl Barbier, who supervises the class actions, has appointed an attorney liens adjudicator, an innovative and important step calculated to to assure the integrity of the court-supervised process of claims payment arising from the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

The Order provides:
Certain recent events have arisen that led to the resignation of a staff attorney at the CSSP.
An internal investigation by the CSSP is underway. However, the Court has concluded that in order to ensure the integrity of the program for the benefit of the parties and the public, an independent, external investigation of this matter should be performed. This type of investigation cannot be effectively and timely addressed by an available district judge or magistrate judge of this district.


Lawyer Who Ran BP’s Gulf Spill Fund Under Investigation For Kickbacks: "NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former FBI Director Louis Freeh was appointed Tuesday to investigate alleged misconduct by a lawyer who helped run BP’s multibillion-dollar settlement fund. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier issued an order naming Freeh, who now runs a consulting firm, a “special master” for the investigation. In another high-profile case, Freeh recently led a university-sanctioned probe of the Pennsylvania State University sex abuse scandal. Oil spill claims administrator Patrick Juneau announced last month that his office is investigating allegations that an attorney on his staff received a portion of settlement proceeds for claims he had referred to a law firm before he started working on the settlement program."

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