BP shareholder sues company executives over Gulf oil spill

A BP shareholder from the United States is suing company executives over ignoring safety issues prior to the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon and subsequent Gulf oil spill.

AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Watkins
In this May 6, 2010 photo released by the U.S. Navy, the Gulf oil spill is seen from an aerial view at the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Mobile, Ala.

A BP shareholder has filed suit against the corporation's top executives because of the offshore rig disaster that has led to the growing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Filed in federal court in New Orleans on Friday, the lawsuit by Pennsylvania resident Katherine Firpo accuses Anthony B. Hayward, the chief executive officer of BP PLC, and other executives of the London-based corporation, of ignoring safety issues on rigs such as the Deepwater Horizon, which exploded on April 20.

And she accuses them of pursuing cost-cutting measures at the expense of safety, while lobbying government authorities to decrease safety regulation. The lawsuit says the rig accident and the leak it caused will cost BP tens of billions of dollars.

The suit is a "shareholder derivative" suit, meaning it was filed by a shareholder on the company's behalf. Among other things, the lawsuit seeks court-ordered changes in BP's corporate governance, and an order that the executives pay monetary damages.

A BP spokesman declined comment Monday.

The lawsuit is among a flurry of lawsuits filed by rig workers or their families and by fishermen and business owners claiming economic damage.

Firpo's lawsuit says safety issues have been ignored even after a similar lawsuit filed in 2006 was settled out of court. Corporate executives made "purely cosmetic changes at the corporate level" after the settlement, the suit says.

"The BP Defendants have a long history of ignoring crucial safety issues related to the operation of offshore submersible rigs such as the Deepwater Horizon rig, including problems with the crucial blowout preventer devices that so spectacularly failed during this disaster," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also names three other corporations it says are liable to BP as a result of the disaster: The rig's owner-operator Transocean Ltd.; Cameron International Corp., which manufactured the blowout preventer; and Halliburton Energy Services Inc., which had been working to cap the well with cement prior to the explosion. Spokesmen for those companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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