BP = Better Press/Bitter Pills

imagesAfter years of being a whipping boy for its Deepwater Horizon debacle, British petroleum giant BP is starting to get some love from the news media.

Start with this piece in Bloomberg Businessweek headlined Spillapalooza: How BP Got Screwed in the Gulf.

Nut graf:

Even as it continues a cheerful quarter-billion-dollar print and television ad campaign about how the Gulf has returned to normal, BP is crying foul. “It was never our intention for the company to become an open cash register for every claim or project anyone could dream up,” says spokesman Geoff Morrell. Locals say BP may have been naive. “This is Louisiana, after all,” says Danny Abel, a longtime New Orleans plaintiffs’ lawyer not involved in the case. “A big foreign company with deep pockets and you’re surprised there’s a feeding frenzy? Come on, man.”

Now comes Joe Nocera’s Tuesday New York Times op-ed column:

Justice, Louisiana Style

You can actually pinpoint the moment when the oil company BP began to get hosed in Louisiana: March 2012.

By then, BP had paid out around $6.3 billion to some 220,000 people and businesses in the Gulf Coast region for damages suffered as a result of the 2010 oil spill. The money was distributed by Kenneth Feinberg, who had parceled out the 9/11 fund, and subsequently managed other victim compensation schemes.

In return for the payouts, however, Feinberg had insisted that the victims sign documents agreeing not to sue BP . . .

But Louisiana lawyers found that agreement “offensive,” Nocera wrote, and so:

[A] group of lawyers — known as the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee — persuaded their clients to skip the Feinberg process and sue BP. And in March 2012, BP settled with those lawyers. As a condition for settling, the plaintiffs’ lawyers insisted that Feinberg be replaced by Patrick Juneau, a good-ol’-boy plaintiffs’ lawyer himself. BP also agreed to expand the potential universe of claimants, knowing full well that this would likely mean that people whose economic losses had no connection to the spill would receive “compensation.” It estimated that the settlement would cost it an additional $7.8 billion.

BP has finally said genug, and appealed to a federal court in New Orleans for relief.

Don’t hold your breath, though, waiting for BP sympathy from, well, anyone.

Especially in Louisiana.

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