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Gulf oil spill: a BP shareholder revolt?

Oil company BP is under siege from lawsuits by family members of rig workers killed in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, and by fishermen, property owners and small businesses alleging damages from the resulting huge gush of oil that has begun to foul the Gulf of Mexico coastline.

Now comes a new threat to the oil giant: a likely wave of legal challenges from its own shareholders.

A lawsuit filed in federal court in New Orleans on Friday accuses Anthony B. Hayward, chief executive of BP, and other officials of the London-based company of cutting costs at the expense of safety and lobbying government officials to slash safety regulations. BP acknowledged Monday that it has already spent $350 million on spill response and payouts, and the new lawsuit charges that the accident will ultimately cost the company and its shareholders billions of dollars.

The suit, by Pennsylvania resident Katherine Firpo, is a "shareholder derivative" suit, meaning that it was filed by a shareholder on behalf of the company. In addition to seeking monetary damages from BP executives, it asks the court to order changes in the company's corporate governance. After a similar 2006 lawsuit, settled out of court, the company made "purely cosmetic changes at the corporate level," Firpo's complaint charges.

The Oil Price Information Service, an energy news agency, predicted Monday that BP may face a growing number of class-action suits from shareholders, as well as lawsuits by small businesses and fines imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. A Los Angeles Times investigation, published Sunday, found that as oil companies have pushed into ever deeper waters in the last decade, government watchdogs have failed to plan for new hazards.

"The BP defendants have a long history of ignoring crucial safety issues related to the operation of offshore submersible rigs such as the Deepwater Horizon rig, including problems with the crucial blowout preventer devices that so spectacularly failed during this disaster," the lawsuit alleged. It also named the rig's owner-operator, Transocean Ltd; Cameron International Corp., which manufactured the blowout preventer; and Halliburton Energy Services Inc., which was responsible for cementing the well to prevent leaks.

Spokespeople for BP, Transocean and Cameron declined comment Monday, while Halliburton spokeswoman Teresa Wong told the Associated Press that "it is premature and irresponsible to speculate on any specific causal issues" and declined further comment.

An estimated 3.5 million gallons of oil has spewed into the Gulf since the April 20 explosion. At that pace, the spill would surpass the 11 million gallons that escaped from the Exxon Valdez tanker by Father's Day.

-- Margot Roosevelt

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Members of the Louisiana National Guard position sandbags to prevent oil from entering the wetlands of Grand Isle and Port Fourchon. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Photos: Oil spill spreads in the Gulf of Mexico

Comments () | Archives (12)

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Why should an investor be paid monetary damages for investing in a company that has obvious environmental implications? As the lawsuit even says, BP has "long history of ignoring crucial safety issues." A shareholder has the responsibility to know the company that they invest in. If you invest in a risky business like this you stand to gain a lot of financial benefit, but you shouldn't be allowed to sue when you also run the risk of losing a lot of money based on the irresponsibility of the company you invest in. As investors, there is a need for us to invest responsibly. That's why there is a huge push for socially responsible investing. If you want to invest your money in an ethically and environmentally questionable company, then don't come crawling to court when you lose your shirt on it.

Also, where did the 3.5 million gallon volume estimate come from? I've been trying to find a good source for an accurate estimate, but even the Coast Guard seems iffy about an accurate number.

Article in Las Vegas Review Journal:

The workers who are cleaning up the oil in the Gulf need to be aware of the chemicals that will be used for the cleaning. Oil companies do not care about human health issues that arise from their toxic chemicals. I am one of the 11,000+ cleanup workers from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, who is suffering from health issues from that toxic cleanup, without compensation from Exxon.

There is an on going lawsuit with VECO's insurance company, the company Exxon contracted for hiring employees. Please read my article below for more information.

The Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Leaves Exxon’s Collateral Damaged

My name is Merle Savage; a female general foreman during the EVOS beach cleanup in 1989, which turned into 20 years of extensive health deterioration for me and many other workers. Dr. Riki Ott visited me in 2007 to explain about the toxic spraying on the beaches. She also informed me that Exxon's medical records and the reports that surfaced in litigation brought by sick workers in 1994, had been sealed from the public, making it impossible to hold Exxon responsible for their actions.

Dr. Riki Ott has devoted her life to taking control from corporations and giving it back to We The People. If corporations continue to control our legal system, then We The People become victims.

Dr. Riki Ott has written two books; Sound Truth & Corporate Myth$ and Not One Drop. Dr. Ott has investigated and studied the oil spill spraying, and quotes numerous reports in her books, on the toxic chemicals that were used during the 1989 Prince William Sound oily beach cleanup. Black Wave the Film is based on Not One Drop, with interviews of EVOS victims; my interview was featured in the section; Like a War Zone.

Exxon developed the toxic spraying; OSHA, the Coast Guard, and the state of Alaska authorized the procedure; VECO and other Exxon contractors implemented it. Beach crews breathed in crude oil that splashed off the rocks and into the air -- the toxic exposure turned into chronic breathing conditions and central nervous system problems, along with other massive health issues. Some of the illnesses include neurological impairment, chronic respiratory disease, leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, liver damage, and blood disease.
Please view the 7 minute video that validates my accusations.

My web site is devoted to searching for EVOS cleanup workers who were exposed to the toxic spraying, and are suffering from the same illnesses that I have. Our summer employment turned into a death sentence for many -- and a life of unending medical conditions for the rest of us.

Merle Savage

This is sad what do you think? there goes our civilization I will keep you posted on the latest news through my site.

They need to stuff this leak full of BP executives. People the Gulf is being KILLED... Just to fill your stupid SUVs.

Regarding the last sentence:

An estimated 3.5 million gallons of oil has spewed into the Gulf since the April 20 explosion. At that pace, the spill would surpass the 11 million gallons that escaped from the Exxon Valdez tanker.

This contextually incomplete sentence is effectively meaningless. Even if 1 gallon of oil trickled into the Gulf since April 20, it could potentially surpass 11 million gallons. This type of writing is unacceptable.

if you invest in oil, you must live under a rock to be unaware of the wanton disregard these corporations tend to have for environmental/worker safety. shareholders, consider the losses a slap on the wrist for not giving a damn, or having a shred of decency.

This is what unregulated free-market worship leads to. But Americans are still blinded by years of corporatist propaganda and the right-wing faux media. Sad.


Twisted and blinded by greed.

They should lower a gigantic box over the lobbyists and executives at BP.

BP = British Parasites

Go drill your own oil back in England, you Pom vampires.

On April 27, 2003, eight years ago the Bouchard Barge B-120 hit an obstacle in Buzzards Bay, creating a 12-foot rupture in its hull and discharging an estimated 100,000 gallons of No. 6 oil. The oil is known to have affected an estimated 90 miles of shoreline, killing 450 numerous bird species the day it happened, and recreational use of the bay, such as shell fishing and boating.

We need to review the George Stephanopoulos interview the other day in which the Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary E. Landry told George there was no leak! Where did the Rear Admiral get this faulty information and who does are government think they are dealing with?

The residents of the Gulf need to know ; Don't Take Any Wooden Nickels -document everything with photos ,dates time and places .

Dawn dishsoap is the only soap to use on yourself and oiled birds . It worked on the Exxon Valdez spill and the bouchard B -120 spill in Buzzards Bay Massachusetts

Only in America can people sue EVERYBODY without any facts or investigation. Talking about being greedy! Halliburton's spokesperson, Teresa Wong, said it best, ""It is premature and irresponsible to speculate on any specific causal issues".

But the most irresponsible of all is president Obama, some cabinet members, and certain members of Congress. They've condemned BP in the media, making a joke out of American justice. As such, BP and the British government should demand that the United Nations censure the president and his government. They should also demand that BP and any other responsible parties be tried at The Permanent International Court of Justice at the Hague.

Our system of justice and the rule of law is far more important than the vigilante style justice of Obama.

In Oil We Trust


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