Monday PM October 9th, 2006

Attorney says settlements from BP Texas City refinery explosion at hand...Gazprom shuts out foreign partners in development of natural gas fields...Firms pay Enron $20 million to settle lawsuits...

An attorney representing more than 100 plaintiffs in litigation with BP over the Texas City refinery explosion expects all his cases to be settled within ten days, according to the Houston Chronicle. Tony Buzbee is working with 52 federal cases and 59 more pending state court cases. He says three other cases were settled today. BP attorney Kenneth Tekell says the company has settled 950 lawsuits. The settlements would mean that BP Chief Executive John Browne would not have to give a deposition in the federal cases, but a decision is pending on whether he would be deposed in state court. The blast occurred when faulty sensors failed to warn about gathering vapors near a unit that boosts the level of octane in gasoline. The March 2005 Texas City refinery explosion killed 15 workers and injured hundreds of others. A state action against BP is set for trial on November 7th in Galveston.

Gazprom says it will develop its huge Shtokman gas field on its own without foreign partners, bringingξin foreign companies only as contractors. And the Russian state-run natural gas monopoly says supplying Europe will take precedence over sending liquified natural gas to the United States. Gas will fill a planned pipeline under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. Western energy companies like Houston-based ConocoPhillips, Chevron, as well as Norway's Statoil and Norsk Hydro and France's Total, had been looking to secure minority stakes in the project. The project, beginning operations in 2010, is expected to cost between $10 billion and $20 billion.

Several affiliates of Enron have agreed to pay the failed energy company nearly $20 million to settle their portions of a lawsuit. The affiliates include FleetBoston Financial, Fleet National Bank and others. The payment is over the "megaclaims'' lawsuit, which alleges the banks failed to prevent Enron's collapse. FleetBoston will pay $10.4 million to settle the lawsuit. It will pay $9.35 million to settle an avoidance action. FleetBoston did not admit liability or wrongdoing. The settlement must be approved by a U.S. bankruptcy court in New York. The payment would go to creditors of Enron, which is liquidating its remaining operations. Remaining "megaclaims'' defendants include CitiGroup, Deutsche Bank and Barclays. Enron filed for bankruptcy in December 2001 amid questions about its accounting and financial state.

Dynegy says it has agreed to a settlement with Enron to pay the bankrupt energy marketing giant $44 million. The settlement relates to an agreement dated November 1st, 2001, that spawned two other adversary proceedings, a Canadian court case and an arbitration action. The settlement resolves the adversarial proceedings, the arbitration action and the Canadian case, pending bankruptcy approval.

European Union regulators cleared investment firm Texas Pacific Group's $1.7 billion takeover of Aleris International. The European Commission approved the deal automatically after 25 working days, as it does in cases where it sees no antitrust problems and receives no complaints from rivals. The Ohio-based metal products maker has 8,600 employees. It makes products from zinc and aluminum and recycles those metals at 50 plants in North America, Europe, South America and Asia. Fort Worth-based Texas Pacific is a private investment partnership currently managing $30 billion in retail, consumer franchises, airlines, media, industrial and other assets. Its investments have included Burger King, J. Crew and Houston-based Continental Airlines. Under the agreement, Texas Pacific will pay $52.50 for each outstanding Aleris share. Texas Pacific also would assume $1.6 billion in Aleris debt in the deal which is expected to close early next year. Aleris' headquarters will remain near Cleveland.

A group of illegal immigrants is suing Wendy's International claiming they were fired after the company missed a deadline for joining a federal program that would have helped them attain legal status. The state lawsuit filed in Houston, is a companion to a similar class-action suit filed last month in Dallas. The suit names the parent company, its subsidiary, Cafe Express, and the Houston-based law firm Boyar & Miller. The immigrants, who worked for Cafe Express, are seeking unspecified damages. Between the two lawsuits, 40 illegal immigrants say they were fired after the company recently found that Boyar & Miller never filed paperwork for a 2001 legalization program. Once the discovery was made, Wendy's was forced by law to fire the employees.

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