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Murderers at BP Want Xmas with NO penalty for Killing 15 people

Monday, December 03 2007 @ 09:11 PM CST

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David Perry Wants Judge to Reject Christmas Present Plea Agreement with BP

Calling it a “Christmas present to BP,” a lawyer representing victims of the March 2005 explosion at BP’s Texas City, Texas facility has called on a federal judge in Houston to reject BP’s agreement to plead guilty and pay a $50 million fine.

David Perry of Perry & Haas in Corpus Christi, Texas has filed papers with a federal court in Houston seeking to upend the plea agreement BP negotiated with federal prosecutors last month.

BP pled guilty to one count in connection with a catastrophic explosion at its Texas City refinery that killed 15 employees and injured more than 170 others. The company was fined $50 million.

“The amount of the fine was inconsequential compared to the profit BP made from its wrongdoing,” Perry told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week.

Perry says that BP made profits of upwards of $1 billion while operating the Texas City plant illegally in the fourteen months prior to the explosion.

“The fine is less than five percent of the profit they made by operating the plant illegally,” Perry said. “Certainly, under the statute the fine should be sufficient to have them disgorge all of their illegal profits.”

But it wasn’t just the minuscule amount of the fine that ticked Perry off.

Perry says the plea agreement contains a grant of absolute immunity to BP and all of its subsidiaries for the same conduct that gave rise to disaster in Texas City.

“When I saw the terms of the plea agreement, I was really shocked,” Perry told Corporate Crime Reporter. “The only BP entity pleading to anything is a subsidiary named BP Products. And that is the one that actually owned and operated this particular plant in Texas City. And I certainly think they are guilty of a crime and they should plead to a crime. But it is very clear that what happened was the result of decisions made by the parent company in London. That corporation is not being charged. It is not pleading. But it is getting immunity from prosecution. It and all other subsidiaries are getting immunity from prosecution not only for what happened in Texas City, but for any other violations occurring anywhere in the country arising out of the same conduct.”

But surely, the government in negotiating this plea agreement didn’t mean to give BP immunity from prosecution for similar wrongful conduct outside of the context of the Texas City plant?

“I don’t know what the government means,” Perry said. “I know what the words on the paper say. The plea agreement is negotiated between the government on one side and law firms of the caliber of Vinson & Elkins and Fulbright & Jaworski on the other. And those kinds of lawyers know how to write an unambiguous document if they want to. And this document does not limit the immunity to the specifics of what happened in Texas City.”

“Let’s say for example we know that in London they issued directives to cut expense budgets and to cut maintenance budgets. And we know they were asked for money to allow the local facility to bring itself back into compliance with its maintenance standards and mechanical integrity standards and that money was denied. These orders to cut the maintenance budgets didn’t just go to Texas City. They went to all of the refineries in the United States and presumably around the world. If as a result, you have criminal conduct that has resulted in Clean Air Act violations in Indiana, Ohio, or California, under this plea agreement, BP cannot be prosecuted. Because they are getting immunity for the same conduct, if it results in other violations.”

Perry wants the court to order a complete pre-sentence report that includes BP’s complete history of wrongdoing and a report on its profits during the six year history of its illegal operations at Texas City.

Perry took issue with the sentencing memo submitted on behalf of BP by outside attorneys Carol Dinkins and Kevin Gaynor of Vinson & Elkins and Mark Holscher Jeff Sinek of Kirkland & Ellis.

Perry said that BP’s lawyers failed to report on 28 of 30 cases of BP’s “long history” of law violations, failed to mention the role of the parent, BP Global, in the crime at Texas City, and failed to mention BP’s net worth of $80 billion, or the $1 billion in profits it made from the crime.

Earlier this month, Perry sought – and secured – the dismissal of federal Judge Gray Miller – from the case. Miller had served as a partner at Fulbright & Jaworski while that firm was the lead defense trial firm in the BP wrongful death and injury cases.

And just yesterday, Perry secured another victory when Judge Lee Rosenthal granted the victims motion to submit additional information to bolster their case that the plea agreement ought to be rejected and that a formal pre-sentence report on BP be ordered.

A hearing is scheduled for December 18, 2007.


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