Ohio, New York sue BP on behalf of pensions


COLUMBUS – Public pension funds in Ohio and New York initiated a class-action lawsuit against BP oil company this week, claiming losses of at least $200 million after the April oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

Court papers filed Tuesday in New Orleans claim retirement systems for teachers and other government workers lost investments in BP securities due to “false and misleading statements” about safety procedures that led to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the ability to respond to a major oil spill.

Attorney General Richard Cordray said institutional investors and four Ohio pension funds with combined assets of $150 billion “have been greatly harmed by BP’s alleged misconduct.”

In the three months that oil has leaked since the explosion, BP’s stock value fell nearly 40 percent, causing four Ohio pension funds to lose as much as $126 million: The New York State Common Retirement Fund lost at least $75 million, according to New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who asked a U.S. District Court in Louisiana to give Ohio and New York co-lead plaintiff status to recover the lost investments.

BP did not return a call for comment on the class-action lawsuit Wednesday.

Meanwhile, storms were threatening to delay BP’s undersea efforts to permanently plug the leaky well in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday.

The federal government’s oil spill chief said that ships would have to leave if a storm entered the gulf, so BP could not observe a newly capped well.

They could instead decide to open the cap that’s choked off the flow of oil for nearly a week.

Scientists were watching to see if the cap is displacing pressure and causing leaks underground.

Forecasters said the storm system was weakening. but had a 60 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm by Friday.

Also Wednesday, the Times of London reported BP CEO Tony Hayward planned to step down after a series of public relations blunders, including yacht racing during the spill and saying he wanted his life back. The Times newspaper in London, quoting company sources it did not identify, said that Hayward was likely to go by early September.

However, BP spokeswoman Sheila Williams said, “Tony is leading the company in a strong and robust way and has the support of the board.”

The BP-leased rig explosion killed 11 workers and triggered one of America’s worst environmental disasters. The well has spewed between 94 million and 184 million gallons of oil into the gulf. BP said the cost of dealing with the spill has now reached nearly $4 billion.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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