BP has agreed to pay $102 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit brought under California’s False Claims Act alleging the oil company intentionally overcharged the state for natural gas for more than a decade.
The law firm representing the whistleblower in the case said it is the largest whistleblower settlement involving an oil company in California’s history, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The case started on July 3, 2012, when former BP employee Chris Schroen filed a whistleblower complaint with the state alleging BP was knowingly quoting and charging the state gas prices above the contractual price cap. The oil giant overcharged local jurisdictions, public agencies, and universities for natural gas for a decade, Mr. Schroen’s complaint alleged.
According to California Attorney General Xavier Bacerra, the state’s three successive contracts with BP allowed the California Department of General Services, which buys natural gas for numerous state agencies and political subdivisions, to cap the price it would pay BP for specific volumes of gas.
BP regularly quoted and charged the State of California prices that violated this cap and concealed its overpricing by providing the state with false and misleading information, the state government alleged after investigating the whistleblower complaint.
“BP thought it could get away with providing false and misleading information in order to line its own pockets. Today, we send a clear message: cheating the People of California will cost you more than it’s worth,” said Attorney General Becerra. “My Office is committed to holding accountable those who unscrupulously put profits ahead of people.”
A lawyer representing Mr. Schroen in the case called fraud against the government “a growth industry.”
“Whistleblowers like Chris Schroen are vital to protecting taxpayers,” the lawyer told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Not only is BP paying over $100 million through this settlement, but with the conduct now stopped, taxpayers are saving millions of dollars more every year. While Trump is allowing oil companies to drill off the California coast, this oil company was stopped from drilling California’s pocketbook.”