Four attorneys targeted for potential fraud in the dispersal of BP PLC’s $9.6 billion Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement are fighting back, filing lawsuits, challenging court orders and alleging a conflict of interest.
Former FBI director Louis Freeh, appointed by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier as special master to investigate potential corruption in the settlement’s claims process, in a September 6 report alleged improprieties in the claims process and referred four lawyers to federal authorities. Barbier has ordered the attorneys to respond by November 15.
All four allege that they have been denied materials that could exonerate them. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan granted access to some of those materials on Thursday.
One of the attorneys, Christine Reitano, has moved to dismiss Barbier’s order against her.
“There’s just no basis for the court to order her to come in and prove something,” said Reitano’s attorney, Mary Olive Pierson, a solo practitioner in Baton Rouge, La.
Reitano, who was fired as senior attorney for claims administrator Patrick Juneau, also sued her former boss and BP on Monday in Orleans Parish, La., Civil District Court, seeking unspecified damages for defamation and breach of contract.
Another attorney, Jonathan Andry, claims that Freeh, chairman of Pepper Hamilton’s executive committee, has a conflict of interest with BP’s law firm, Kirkland & Ellis. He is seeking documents related to that potential conflict to establish whether Freeh should be disqualified as special master in the BP case.
“All these things should have been very detailed and set out precisely so that everyone involved could make a fair decision,” said Andry’s attorney, Lewis Unglesby of Unglesby Law Firm in Baton Rouge.
On Tuesday, Freeh filed a response saying that he previously had disclosed six matters in which Pepper Hamilton “is adverse to BP.”
In his report, Freeh concluded that Reitano and her husband, Lionel “Tiger” Sutton, also a former senior attorney for Juneau, accepted fees for a client that they referred to The Andry Law Firm in New Orleans. Andry, part owner of The Andry Law Firm, and Glen Lerner, the fourth attorney, are principals of Andry Lerner in New Orleans.
Contact Amanda Bronstad at email@example.com.