Oil firm sorts a big part of its sprawling courtroom drama

Marion Dakers
IT almost came down to the wire. Just as well it didn’t, given BP’s settlement involves more than 100,000 victims, along with their 340 lawyers from about 90 law firms. Imagine the risk assessment for a deal struck on the courthouse steps.

Friday’s long-awaited settlement, tabled after the enormous trial in New Orleans was delayed last Monday, gives BP, and its investors, a somewhat clearer view on its future costs. The firm estimates that the settlement won’t push it above an existing $32.7bn charge.

But it’ll be a while before the lawyers involved in these complex lawsuits get their lives back.

The US Department for Justice is still pursuing claims under the Clean Water Act, which lets it seek fines of up to $1,100 per barrel of oil spilled, moving to $4,300 if gross negligence is proven.

And the US has not yet filed any criminal charges against BP or its partners (several of whom have not accepted liability). So there’s still plenty of scope for courtroom drama yet. But with BP’s shares 23 per cent below the pre-spill watermark, the uncertainty looks priced in already.