LONDON — BP has hit dead ends in its all of its efforts to freeze payments on oil-spill claims under the settlement agreement terms it helped craft, but chief executive officer Robert Dudley vows to keep fighting.
BP says that claims administrators are resolving “false and fictitious” claims made by some businesses with excessive payments and has asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans to stop claims administrator Patrick Juneau from paying any further damages until the settlement terms can be reconsidered by the court. Judge Barbier has rejected BP’s allegations and its request to halt payments pending an appeal, sharply rebuking the oil giant for its “offensive” and “inappropriate” ways of dealing with the issue, which included personal attacks on Mr. Juneau and placing ads in national newspapers in an effort to sway public opinion.
BP originally estimated that it would cost about $7.8 billion to resolve the outstanding claims. It has already exceeded that amount by $1.8 billion, with thousands of outstanding claims remaining. Many analysts believe that BP is on track to pay twice its original estimate to settle all the claims.
The oil giant also faces paying billions more in civil fines for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which released more than 200 million gallons of oil from the blown-out Macondo well. The second phase of a trial to determine BP’s share of liability and the amount of fines it will have to pay for violating the Clean Water Act will begin in September.
Mr. Dudley said that it would be “highly unlikely” that BP would enter into detailed settlement discussions with the U.S. government.
“As we continue to fight what I think are absurd outcomes we want everyone to know that we are digging in and are well-prepared for the long haul on legal matters,” Mr. Dudley told reporters.
Despite its legal setbacks and some recent losses mostly tied to its Rosneft oil venture with the Russian government, BP continues to display overall strength. As of July 26 it bought back $2.4 billion of the $8 billion in shares it plans to recover, and it paid dividends of 9 cents per share for the most recent quarter, up from 8 cents the previous year.
“As of two or three years ago we were a weaker company,” Mr. Dudley said. “Now our balance sheet is strong again.”