27 February 2014, News Wires – A US federal judge has reportedly denied BP’s request to halt payments from the $2.3 billion fund it has created to compensate commercial fishermen for financial losses claimed after the 2010 Macondo oil spill.
BP had sought to block the payments after alleging that some individuals supposedly injured by the spill, clients of attorney Mikal Watts, did not exist, Reuters reported.
The company said it has already paid out more than $1 billion from the so-called Seafood Compensation Fund.
US District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, who is overseeing litigation stemming from the spill, denied the motion on Wednesday, according to an entry on the court docket.
The judge also granted Watts’s motion to stay BP’s civil action against him over the alleged fraud pending a related federal criminal investigation.
In a statement, lawyers for BP plaintiffs, Steve Herman and Jim Roy, said they were “pleased the court will not let BP hold the entire seafood program hostage as part of its continuing effort to rewrite history and the settlement agreement.”
BP and Watts did not immediately return requests for comment from Reuters on Wednesday evening.
The ruling followed a hearing in the New Orleans federal court, where litigation related to the Gulf of Mexico spill has been consolidated. Also on Wednesday, a federal judge in a related case indefinitely postponed a criminal trial set to begin 10 March for David Rainey, a former vice-president of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico.
Rainey was charged with obstructing an investigation by Congress into the Gulf spill, and another count of lying to law-enforcement officials. The judge overseeing his case, US District Judge Kurt Engelhardt, dismissed the obstruction count, which federal prosecutors have appealed. Prosecutors later re-filed the obstruction of Congress charge in a superseding indictment.