HOUSTON, TX – On June 22, 2011 Houston-based Transocean Ltd issued a final report on the events of April 2010 involving the explosion, fire and sinking of the oil drilling platform, the Deepwater Horizon, at the infamous Macondo well site in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Deepwater Horizon was owned by Transocean and was leased and operated by British Petroleum, Plc (BP). As a result of the tragic events that occurred, 11 men lost their lives, leaving their surviving families and relatives to cope with their loss and causing environmental damage to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the businesses and local economies of the coastal states.
The 854 page report issued by Transocean fourteen months after the disaster spared itself from any blame in the matter – it was all BP’s fault according to Transocean.
Maritime lawyer, Steve Gordon represents eight of the survivors of the disaster who were injured in the incident and whose lives have been changed forever. Gordon also represented Tracy Kleppinger, the widow of one of the 11 men who was killed in the initial explosion and fire. A confidential settlement was reached by Gordon for Mrs. Kleppinger in that case.
Denial of any and all responsibility for the loss of life, the loss of the drilling vessel and the subsequent environmental damage in the wake of the largest oil spill in our nation’s history is the stance taken by Transocean. Even though the majority of workers aboard the vessel were Transocean employees at the time of the disaster, it was no fault of their own. Nope, not a speck of blame. According to Transocean, it was all BP’s fault.
Recently, a news article has appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek entitled, “Transocean: No Apologies Over Gulf Oil Spill” which covers the strategy Transocean has appeared to have assumed in greater detail.
Steve Gordon believes that one of the main reasons Transocean is taking this position is because they are not as big as BP and do not have the same degree of financial backing. Even if they were to assume a small amount of blame, the financial hit could be so substantial that it could send them into bankruptcy.
In the Bloomberg article, Gordon offers his point of view:
The total liability could ultimately be $50 billion. BP wants Transocean to chip in a big percentage, but Transocean is a much smaller company than BP and doesn’t have that kind of cash flow or insurance. … So Transocean’s strategy is to offer zero, nothing—how about zip?—and hope that works in court. … I don’t think they care whether it works in the court of public opinion.
Only a short time after trying to minimize any payments to the widows and survivors, the Bloomberg article points out that, “Transocean announced plans to issue $1 billion in dividends to its shareholders” and then they followed that up by declaring in its annual report that the year 2010 had been “the best year in safety performance in our company’s history” – this in the face of all the the death and destruction in the Gulf of Mexico that same year. Transocean even issued safety bonuses to its top executives, prompting Gordon to say, “You almost have to admire their chutzpah—almost.”
Published by Houston maritime lawyer Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP