U. S. District Judge Carl Barbier.
U. S. District Judge Carl Barbier. ()

A federal judge overseeing the $9.2 billion Deepwater Horizon settlement has approved creation of a committee headed by a local law professor to audit oil-spill claims.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier on Wednesday approved the appointment of P. Raymond Lamonica, a professor at Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center, as chairman of the committee. Lamonica has served as special counsel to Louisiana and as general counsel to the LSU system. He was U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana from 1986 to 1994.

Barbier also appointed two accounting executives to the committee: Lloyd Tate, former managing partner of Deloitte & Touche’s Louisiana practice, and D. Larry Crumbley, an accounting professor at LSU.

Lamonica declined to comment. BP spokeswoman Ellen Moskowitz and Nick Gagliano, spokesman for claims administrator Patrick Juneau, did not respond to requests for comment.

BP PLC has continued to allege that Juneau has misinterpreted the settlement’s terms, resulting in awards to businesses that suffered no economic damages from the 2010 spill.

Former FBI agent Louis Freeh, appointed as special master to investigate potential fraud in the claims process, concluded that three former top administrator’s office figures had violated conflict-of-interest policies, in part by visiting a New Orleans bar that received $500,000 in oil-spill claims. All three have resigned.

The audit committee, according to a motion filed on Tuesday by lawyers for Juneau, will review reports by two accounting firms and recommend an internal quality-control process designed to find and correct claims errors.

According to the motion, the accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen LLP has been doing financial audits for the claims office for the past two years, with its next report due this month. Another accounting firm, McGladrey LLP, was retained in October to recommend improvements to the claims process to ensure accuracy. During a Feb. 4 meeting with claims officials, McGladrey staff recommended that the office create the audit committee.

Contact Amanda Bronstad at abronstad@alm.com.