US Courts Closed to BP Shareholders

Dividends were pulled and share prices sank – but where can shareholders find redress?

(July 31, 2012) — Institutional investors looking to sue oil giant BP for loss of earnings are finding courtrooms in the United States increasingly less willing to hear their cases, as the amount of legal action building against the company is revealed.

Lawsuits against the London-listed oil company – and more specifically the fallout from the Deep Water Horizon spill in 2010 – were revealed in the company’s second quarter results today.

This month two new complaints were filed by shareholders claiming loss of income due to falling share prices and the decision by BP executives to withdraw dividends while it covered payments to those affected by the oil spill.

The latest complaints were filed by an unnamed pension fund from the United Kingdom and shareholders from Alberta, Canada. The UK fund filed through the Texas State court system, while the Canadian investors filed in their domestic legal system.

In April and May another six claims were filed by investors, the BP report said.

However, one of the judges overseeing the cases filed in the US has dismissed several suits, finding favour with the oil company’s argument that the actions against which the shareholders are claiming damages were made in the UK.

A report by told that the City of New Orleans Employees’ Retirement System had appealed against such a decision last week and were expecting to hear judgement on the issue in September.

Judge Ellison, who is presiding on the BP cases in Texas, threw out a large portion of a shareholder class action in February, said, as he cited the Supreme Court’s 2010 opinion in Morrison v. National Australia Bank, which held that investors who purchased foreign securities on foreign stock exchanges could not bring claims in US courts.

The BP document also detailed how its own employee benefit funds had failed to convince the judge that they had a case for damages as shareholders invested in the company.

BP had not returned with comment at the time of going to press.