BP asks court to stop payments over Gulf spill

BP HAS asked a US court to halt payments from its settlement agreement for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico until the claims administrator improves accounting and anti-fraud controls.

The request for an injunction was the latest in a string of filings by the firm to stop or delay payments under the costly settlement programme.

BP originally expected the payout programme to cost $7.8bn, but has said the bill has been driven up by excessive fees charged by the administrator, generous payments, and phony claims.

The oil company has sustained about $42.4bn in charges from the 20 April 2010 disaster aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 workers and triggered the worst offshore oil spill in US history.

BP said all payments should be stopped until the court appointed claims administrator, Patrick Juneau, puts efficiency and accounting controls into place as recommended by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who reviewed the payment program.

“There is no assurance that dishonest and illegitimate claims are being detected and denied,” said BP spokesman Geoff Morrell. “Payment of such claims would cause BP irreparable injury.”

Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the civil case on the spill in New Orleans federal court, named Freeh a special master to review the settlement programme in July.

BP is awaiting decisions by a federal appeals court on several challenges it has made to the settlement and its payment formula. Barbier on 19 July rejected an earlier BP request to suspend payouts pending Freeh’s review.

The trial under Barbier to determine blame and overall damages from the spill is ongoing.