Stockholder lawsuit against BP officials filed in Alaska

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A stockholder lawsuit claims "gross mismanagement" by top BP officials has severely damaged the company's reputation and hurt its value.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Superior Court in Anchorage, alleges the officials did not take the necessary steps to ensure BP compliance with safety rules and environmental safeguards, citing last month's oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, a 2005 refinery blast in Texas and concerns U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak raised earlier this year about BP operations on Alaska's North Slope.

"Defendants' disdain for safety and environmental laws, and the resulting loss of lives and property, has plunged BP into a public relations crisis," the lawsuit claims. This has resulted in BP being "tagged as an unsafe company and gross polluter, all of which are extremely negative developments which are hurting BP's business."

A spokesman for BP in Alaska, Steve Rinehart, declined comment on pending litigation.

Defendants in the suit include BP chief executive Tony Hayward; members of BP's board of directors; Lamar McKay, president of BP America, Inc.; and John Minge, head of BP Exploration Alaska. The named plaintiff is Jeffrey Pickett, identified as a BP shareholder since at least late 2000 acting "for the benefit" of BP. A message left for a Jeffrey Pickett in Anchorage wasn't immediately returned.

California-based attorney Patrick Coughlin said funds that hold BP stock are interested in joining the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, as well as appointment of an "independent corporate monitor" to develop and implement safety and environmental compliance protocols.

Separately, a case was filed last week in Anchorage seeking enforcement of a 2008 settlement agreement. According to court records, the agreement, also in a shareholder case involving Pickett, stemmed from allegations that failure by company officials to adequately oversee BP operations exposed the company to billions of dollars in fines and other potential liabilities.

Last week's motion alleges officials have not fully complied with the terms of the agreement "by failing to implement effective reforms to BP's corporate governance and internal control procedures."