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Robert Trigaux

As Florida lawsuits soar on perceived losses from 2010 oil spill, BP says it's time to fight back




BP's stock price plummeted more than 50 percent in the spring of 2010 when one of its Gulf sites began spewing oil. Shares bounced back quickly to hover around $40 a share -- not where they were but the price has remained relatively stable through most of the legal woes.

Wake up and good morning. It seems BP may not be the bottomless treasure chest after all. In recent months, Florida lawyers have been banging the drum loudly for clients that would join the throng suing BP for perceived financial losses due the the Deepwater Horizon oil spill -- and consequent damage to the area economy -- in the Gulf of Mexico.

And why not? I think I got a hangnail while watching CNN's endless coverage of the spill. Maybe I'll sue, too.

A few weeks ago, the city of Tampa said it will jump on board the gravy train and seek $50 million in damages to cover past and future losses in tourism, business and tax revenue caused by the 2010 spill. Read the details in this Tampa Bay Times story. This week, four Pinellas County beach cities said they will seek more than $12 million in damages (read more here). On Jan. 22, the administrator of a a class-action settlement between BP and oil spill claimants, Patrick Juneau, told a state government panel in Tallahassee that 34,000 Florida businesses and individuals so far had been approved to receive $332 million. Details here.

We seem to be at a point where not suing BP would threaten a mayor or city for failing to uphold its fiduciary responsibility. 

Well, BP may be noticing that its fat wallet is starting to thin rapidly. A story on the Wall Street Journal web site says BP will "vigorously contest" billions in lawsuits it called "seriously flawed." Monetary demands from BP, given the rate of lawsuits, would double the amount the British oil giant has set aside to handle a disaster now heading towards its third anniversary.

Brian Gilvary, BP's chief financial officer, is quoted saying the bulk of the state claims in Florida and along the gulf coast are based around losses in potential tax revenues and will be hard to prove as BP has put a lot of stimulus money into the gulf states to deal with the spill.

"That will be an interesting thing to try and prove," Gilvary states, " given that we have provided one of the biggest fiscal stimuli that the Gulf has ever seen. We hired up over 40,000 people to deal with it and paid taxes a s a consequence." Read the full story here.

BP's still got multiple dates in court to settle civil matters. This won't be over for a long time. As much as BP complains about the money s-pent -- and that sum will top $40 billion in the spill aftermath -- just remember: BP's market value as of Thursday is about $140 billion.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times




[Last modified: Thursday, February 7, 2013 7:32am]


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