Monday, October 28, 2013

Will Barbier do the right thing?

In the last post, I brought up the interesting point that in his report on the DHECC, Louis Freeh suggested an unnamed law firm may have had claims overpaid by up to 114%.  I questioned the fact that Freeh had no qualms about naming Lionel Sutton, Christine Reitano (Sutton's wife) and the Andry Lerner law firm in his report but for some unknown reason he didn't release the name of the law firm on page 60.

This is a pretty big deal because he's effectively destroyed Sutton and Reitano's reputation by listing them both in the report.  Reitano has denied any wrongdoing and is now suing both Patrick Juneau and BP for defamation.  Why would Freeh name Sutton, Reitano and Andry Lerner but protect the identity of this firm?

I've been doing a lot of speculating with my legal-eagle readers and friends about why this firm went unnamed.  Here are some of our theories, they aren't necessarily mutually exclusive:

- Freeh is continuing the investigation into the misconduct of the unnamed firm and was not ready to release their name at the time he published the report.

- The claim may be unsubstantiated and found to have been false upon further examination.

- The law firm may, in fact, be a PSC (Plaintiff Steering Committee) firm that used their position to manipulate the claims process to their advantage and get the increase in payments.  This may simply be such a huge can of worms that Judge Barbier had Freeh back off the firm in order to preserve the integrity of the Claims Office.

- Freeh may not be as autonomous as he pretends and the law firm had enough stroke with him and/or Judge Barbier to keep themselves out of the frying pan.

- Barbier may have given the law firm the opportunity to pay back the overpayments in order to not be exposed and mar the Claims Office.

Here's what I think...I think it's most likely a combination of the last three theories.  The first question is what law firm would have enough stroke within the DHECC to manipulate the claims to get a 114% overpayment.  I think that it almost has to be, without a doubt, a PSC firm.  I also think that it would almost have to be a local, Louisiana-based firm.  That narrows the possibilities down to what?  About 9 of the 12 original firms?  There's Calvin Fayard, Steve Herman, Jim Roy, Motley Rice, Micheal C. Palmintier, Paul M. Sterbcow, Matthew E. Lundy, Duke Williams,  and Phillip Cossich.  You can check out this post I made for a graphic map of the PSC.

I honestly don't know, 100%, who the firm is but I have about a 90% hunch of who it might be.  If I'm right it would also explain why local media outlets, especially the Times-Picayune, are virtually ignoring this story and the past two legal filings by Andry Lerner and Reitano.  In fact, they aren't even reporting on the matter, themselves, they're just reposting AP reports.  Nola.com posted the Reitano AP report, left it up for about two hours and immediately pushed it to archives.  Why is the AP the only entity reporting what may be the biggest story in the city at the moment?  Maybe The Advocate and Nola.com are working on it but I suspect the story is purposely being muted because of who the unnamed firm may be.

NOTE:  The AP story said Reitano's suit was a defamation suit...it's not.  Her suit is actually for breach of contract.  

For the moment, let's assume Freeh's unnamed firm is a PSC firm.

Please note that I have continually addressed issues that have been reported to me with some of the PSC firms, particularly those who were also placed on the Wisner settlement with BP for the City of New Orleans.  If you haven't seen the issues I have brought up, here are some links you should read now:

American Zombie: The Wisner Fund - Battle for the Bayou - Part 2

American Zombie: Thieves in The Temple

American Zombie: A little help

American Zombie: "Complaints"

American Zombie: Item # 2

American Zombie: Sounds of the Jungle

Aside from the clear collusion between Steve Herman and BP lawyers regarding the Wisner property I laid out in email chains in the first link, Wisner Part 2, I have been researching two overarching claims of wrongdoing by some of the PSC firms:

1.  Some of the PSC law firms used their clout to push their own private claims ahead of other claims being processed in the DHECC.

2.  At least one of the PSC law firms sold the "formula" to the claims process before the DHECC office even opened in order to give an advantage to law firms who wanted to get their claims processed first.

On item number two, I have been very close to getting a source to go on the record about being approached to purchase this "formula" but ultimately they decided not to.  I'm still working on that item though, so don't give up on me just yet.  I have no doubt this allegation is true.

The thing is, if any of these claims are proven against a PSC firm, including the 114% overpayment alleged by Freeh, this could lead to catastrophic legal implications.

The reason this is such a big deal, and the reason I've been pounding the drum about it for so long, is that these PSC lawyers were appointed to represent the claimants in the DHECC and the people of the Gulf who were affected by the BP spill...people who are still suffering from the BP spill.  Many of these people have filed claims and still not been paid.  Some have been waiting a year or more.

As we all know, BP is trying to shut the DHECC down and kill the settlement completely.  If that were to happen, all the folks with claims left queued in the Claims Office are most likely shit outta luck.  If a PSC firm got their clients paid first, and overpaid, they are directly responsible for dissing the claimants who may not get paid.  I'm not even sure what happens at that point.  Could the remaining claimants file a class action malpractice suit against one or more of the PSC firms?  Not sure if that's legally possible but it seems as if it should be.

I suspect there is a massive suppression campaign taking place right now to try and squash this genie back in the bottle.  I hope that doesn't happen.  Not only would that not be fair to the people actually named in the Freeh report, Reitano, Sutton and Andry Lerner, it wouldn't be fair to the hard working people of the Gulf Coast who were devastated by BP's greed and incompetence.

The one person who must know the answers to these questions is Federal Judge Carl Barbier.  Let's hope he does the right thing.  We've seen too many rich, wealthy, fat cats get away with crimes in this city in the past couple years...crimes that have a direct impact on our society.  I hope that pattern doesn't continue here.  

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Al Jazeera`s English services are covering the ongoing health and social effects of the BP oïl and chemical disaster.

Cancer deaths, weird pocked and wounded skin, guys coughing up enough blood to ruin bath towels, and reports that some areas along the coast are seeing more miscarriages.

If it was your father, uncle or husband coughing up blood or dying of cancer in mere months, or if your wife, daughter, sister or mom was the pregnant woman who miscarried, you`d be sad for the rest of your life over that, even if you did move on.

This claim manipulation stuff is really low.

It is insulting in the first place to think that destroying an ecosystem, the traditional livelihoods of many working families and towns, and killing the fish, birds, animals and people of the region is the kind of thing you can just write a note to cover.

But then to dick around not paying, or to use this situation as an opportunity to cheat and steal-- that`s too much.

Thanks for continuing to cover this.

Calph said...

That's an ugly situation alright. No doubt BP would try their utmost to shut down the claims process altogether if a major scandal erupted.

Some thoughtful speculation there about why Freeh is keeping quiet, but what about you, Jason? Is it safe to assume that you're continuing the investigation into the misconduct of the unnamed firm and were not ready to release their name at the time you published this report?

Dambala - Jason B. Berry said...

Well I'm not exactly keeping quiet am I? But as I stated, I don't know for sure who the firm is...I could be way off. I've done everything I can to expose the bullshit but I can only speculate on who Freeh is referencing

Dambala - Jason B. Berry said...

The issues I'm trying to prove are independent of Freeh's allegations. The only way to confirm which firm it is would be see a list of had been paid and how much. I filed a FOIA and sent a letter to Barbier asking him to release that information but I was denied on the FOIA and received no response on the letter. There's not much more I can do in that respect.

Kevin said...

A humble, personal, non-attorney, non-legal prediction: The US 5th Circuit will overturn the class certification, possibly before the end of the year.

If the DHECC is a court-created entity, it would probably continue to exist, while the parties would have to go back to the drawing board.

But, since the GCCF-become-DHECC was originally (pre-class settlement) disbursing, and operating on, funds voluntarily provided by BP through its $20 billion, would BP even be required to continue to fund anything except its defense counsel?


Anonymous said...

What then happens to the $600 million due to the PSC attorneys? If this whole thing folds,

Dambala - Jason B. Berry said...

good question....I don't know.

Kevin said...

Somewhere I read that BP was to put $75 million non-refundable dollars into an attorney fee/cost/expense escrow account upon the passing of some date or event.

That isn't close to $600 million, but it still isn't a bad payday.

Kevin said...

Judge Barbier appointed somebody to be a "neutral" to help resolve issues in the Business Economic Loss Program with unfettered access to everybody involved in that claims process.

Can someone from among the readers provide the names of the CPAs and CPA firms in the CAO?

Anonymous said...

Price Waterhouse

Postlewait & Netterville

Coincidently(?) the newly appointed "neutral" is the brother of the CEO of Postlewait and the neutral's law firm has a history of representing Postlewait.

Kevin said...

I wonder if David Odom had a hand in getting this "neutral" appointed?


So, the question remains: "Will Barbier do the right thing?"

Kevin said...

If not for the AZ, the public would not be aware of the resignation of David Duval - an attorney identified by name and act in the Freeh report; the suit by Christine Reitano bringing forth additional evidence of conflicts; and, now this potentially serious conflict that the court has allowed by its order.

Seriously, who proposed this "neutral" thing to the court? Did Pat Juneau have any knowledge this was going to be proposed?

Anonymous said...

So what happened to all of the $100 million that BP gave to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and also what is the current status of the possible EBR Parish lawsuit?

Kevin said...

On the subject of CPAs in the CAO, can any AZ reader shed some light on Danny Clavier's activities at the CAO?

He was the former head of the Class Action Consulting section of Bourgeois Bennett (where David Duval's aunt is a principal) and came out of "retirement" for a position with the CAO.