BP Sues Lawyer Over Thousands of 'Phantom' Plaintiffs

Company slams 'fraud' in oil spill case

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 18, 2013 7:33 AM CST

(Newser) – Three years after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP has launched a suit of its own—against a plaintiffs' lawyer who, the company says, has represented tens of thousands of "phantom" clients in the case. BP says part of its settlement over the spill, worth $2.3 billion, was calculated using figures from lawyer Mikal Watts. "The facts of this case shout fraud," says a BP rep. "Tens of thousands of Mikal Watts’ clients have proved to be phantoms," and the "false representations improperly inflated the value of potential claims" in the seafood industry, Businessweek reports.

Watts has said he was fighting for some 40,000 deckhands affected by the disaster, but half of them aren't real, according to BP, which found that 45% of their supposed social security numbers actually belonged to others, living or dead; others had made-up numbers. A lawyer for Watts says he "never committed identity theft and did not defraud BP or anyone else," and claims were reviewed by an independent body. He calls BP's move "another of a series of efforts to walk away from the settlement to which it agreed," the New York Times reports. In other BP news:

  • An exploration well off Brazil turns out not to have commercially-viable amounts of fuel; the company will write off more than $1 billion in related costs, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • But BP says it has made a major oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico, adding to a big year for the company's exploration efforts.

Crude oil is seen bubbling between roots from marsh grass along the shoreline of Bay Jimmy, which was heavily impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in Plaquemines Parish, La., Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. The methods that BP employed during its 86-day struggle to stop oil gushing into the Gulf...
Crude oil is seen bubbling between roots from marsh grass along the shoreline of Bay Jimmy, which was heavily impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in Plaquemines Parish, La., Friday, Sept. 27,...   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
In this Monday, June, 7, 2010 file picture, oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill floats on the water on Barataria Bay off the coast of Louisiana.
In this Monday, June, 7, 2010 file picture, oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill floats on the water on Barataria Bay off the coast of Louisiana.   (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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