Group asks for oil spill claims operation contracts to be made public

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A nonprofit group on Tuesday asked Gulf Coast attorneys general to pressure the Gulf Coast Claims Facility and BP PLC to release all documents and contracts connecting the two entities.

Center for Justice and Democracy Executive Director Joanne Doroshow said that the letter was prompted, in part, by a Monday Press-Register story revealing that a law firm hired by Ken Feinberg’s claims operation to give free legal advice to Mississippi claimants was already working for BP.

The Press-Register reported that Mississippi-based Brunini, Grantham, Grower and Hewes, one of three firms chosen to give such pro bono advice, has been working for BP since at least June.

Attorneys from the firm drafted contracts that were distributed to university scientists along the Gulf Coast and promised lucrative consulting fees to those who agreed to be a part of BP’s legal defense against a pending federal lawsuit over the spill. Those contracts described Brunini attorneys as BP attorneys.

A spokeswoman for claims czar Ken Feinberg said Monday that he was aware that the firm was doing some work for BP, but he didn’t think there was a conflict of interest because different lawyers would work for BP and the claims operation.

“Of all firms that Mr. Feinberg could hire, he chose this one to offer ‘free legal advice’ to victims filing damage claims against BP, asking them to release BP of all future liability,” Doroshow said in the letter to Alabama Attorney General Troy King, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell.

“That Mr. Feinberg sees no ethical problem here is stunning,” the letter continued.

Doroshow’s group made a similar information request of Feinberg and BP about a month ago, her letter indicated, but got no response.

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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