Oil giant BP is again attempting to convince the public that the oil spill settlement process for their destruction of the Gulf of Mexico resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and leak, is completely riddled with fraud.
The company filed a fraud lawsuit earlier this week to stop payments on the claim process while investigators look into the fraud allegations. According to BP, one of the law firms representing oil spill victims has been submitting and receiving payment for claimants who don’t actually exist.
The specific payments that BP is hoping to stop come from the Seafood Compensation Fund, a fund that was set up to pay fishermen and others who rely on the seafood industry as their source of income. The company says that Louisiana attorney Mikal Watts has filed 648 claims on behalf of seafood industry workers, and that 8 of those have been verified as accurate with 17 more still pending approval.
Watts’ attorney has fired back at BP, saying that Watts did nothing illegal during the spill process, and submitted the appropriate documentation for every spill claim that he has filed. BP insists that at least half of Watts’ clients don’t exist.
The lawsuit is just the latest effort by the oil giant to paint the victims along the Gulf Coast in a negative light. In August of this year, the company launched a massive PR blitz, backed by business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, telling the American public that they were the victims, and the greedy Gulf Coast residents were trying to take advantage of the system.
But what the company is really doing is distracting the public from all of the dirt that has been surfacing about their activities since the oil rig explosion.
Most recently, Kurt Mix, a former engineer for BP who worked with the team attempting to stop the oil leak, was found guilty in court of one count of obstruction of justice. Mr. Mix had access to information about how much oil was flowing from the broken well head at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, a topic that BP continuously mislead the public on, in spite of the fact that they were the ones who invented the technology a few years earlier to determine the flow rate of undersea oil leaks. Mix was found guilty of deleting text messages between him and his supervisor about the topic, which was evidence in the ongoing investigation.
So far, Mix has been the only employee from the company to be on his way to prison, pending a sentencing hearing, for his role in the disaster, even though top BP executives plead guilty to manslaughter charges earlier this year. As always, the man low on the totem pole takes the fall, while those at the top walk away handcuff free.
BP is also hoping to distract the public from the recent allegations that their PR firm has been using online “trolls” to harass critics of the company on social media sites. According to Dahr Jamail with Al Jazeera, BP’s PR firm Ogilvy & Mathers has been using online trolls to try to get critics of BP banned from sites like Facebook. Additionally, whistleblowers have come forward admitting to being physically threatened by these cyber bullies for their online complaints against BP.
The following video from Ring of Fire shows host Mike Papantonio speaking with this whistleblower, identified only as “Marie:”
BP has yet to be officially fined for violating The Clean Water Act, and they are already running out of money for the claims to oil spill victims. This effort to paint the actual victims as villains comes across as a thinly veiled attempt to halt compensation payments. Perhaps BP is biding time while they figure out how to tell their shareholders more company money will be spent trying to clean up the damage they've caused.