The web of cronyism surrounding the Gulf oil spill claims process runs deep. The latest example of this recurring theme is a report from the Louisiana Record, which reveals Loyola law professor Blain LeCesne, who is widely quoted as an unbiased legal analyst on the case, actually has a stake in a claim against BP.
“According to a report submitted by former FBI director Louis Freeh in the BP case pending in federal court in New Orleans, LeCesne in 2013 attempted to intervene on behalf of Nolmar Corp., a New Orleans janitorial and construction company that had a claim pending against BP. LeCesne is vice-president and general counsel at Nolmar.”
If having a stake in a company that has a pending claim is not a conflict of interest, I don’t know what is.
What’s worse is the apparent attempt to mislead the public and the media about his motives. Take for example LeCesne’s extensive online bio, which boasts of his ability to serve as an unbiased expert on the case, but never mentions the fact that he represents a plaintiff.
“Professor LeCesne is a frequent expert legal analyst on the BP oil spill and has been interviewed and quoted extensively by such diverse media sources as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, National Law Journal, USA Today, Reuters, and the Associated Press. He has also appeared as a legal analyst on radio and television outlets such as PBS News Hour, the British Broadcasting Company, Al Jazeera Television, The Voice of Russia, WYES, and WWL-TV.”
And then there’s the question of whether or not LeCesne attempted to expedite his client’s claims ahead of thousands of others, which is wholly unethical for any lawyer, but especially one who presents himself as an unbiased legal expert to the media.
According to the Record, court documents show Lionel “Tiger” Sutton, a former claims administrators who resigned under a cloud of uncertainty, accessed Nolmar’s claim eight separate times in 2013.
In a phone interview with the Record, LeCesne admitted he spoke to Sutton on “maybe one or two occasions” in an attempt to jump-start the Nolmar claim, but he denied doing anything improper.
“LeCesne said he has been careful to not involve himself directly with any claims handling for fear of being perceived as biased.”
I’m no legal scholar, but isn’t making personal phone calls to the deputy claims administrator to inquire about a claim that you have a vested interest in the very definition of getting directly involved in the claims process?
The bottom line is LeCesne’s behavior can only be described as misleading, at best. The media and the public would be wise to reconsider the context of his commentary in the future—for it seems he is not a disinterested legal expert, as he claims. He is just another plaintiffs’ lawyer working to extract funds from the system.