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N.Y. pension fund seeks class action suit against BP

June 23, 2010 |  4:48 pm

New York state's pension fund, the country's third largest, is seeking to be named lead plaintiff in a possible class-action lawsuit against BP that's related to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico two months ago.

So far, neither of the two bigger California-based public retirement systems has indicated an interest in joining the effort.

On Wednesday, New York state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced he had hired a law firm to start the process of seeking damages from BP caused by a 50% drop in stock value since the April 20 explosion at a deep-water drilling site.

"It's my duty to protect the interests of the fund and the retirees and employees who rely on it," said DiNapoli, who is the sole trustee of the $133-billion New York State Common Retirement Fund. "BP misled investors about its safety procedures and its ability to respond to events like the ongoing oil spill, and we're going to hold it accountable."

The New York fund owned more than 19 million shares of BP at the time of the disaster at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

The country's largest pension fund, the $200-billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, said it currently owns about 60 million BP shares that have dropped in value by more than $240 million.

But CalPERS is not aware of the New York litigation, said spokesman Clark McKinley. The fund would deal with any potential complaints about BP through its normal corporate governance procedures, he said.

The $132-billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, which held BP stock worth $86 million on June 8, said it is not part of the New York legal action.

-- Marc Lifsher