BP, others told not to deplete assets

The government wants advance notice from companies involved in the BP oil spill on any asset sales that could be applied toward cleanup costs.

By Charley Blaine Jun 29, 2010 6:55PM
The Justice Department told BP (BP), Transocean (RIG) and three other companies associated with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to provide the government with advance notice before depleting assets that could cover judgments against them.

The letters, dated June 23, also went to Anadarko Petroleum (APC), Halliburton (HAL) and Moex USA, and described “significant” potential liability. It was provided today to Bloomberg News in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Each letter said the U.S. has a "compelling interest" to ensure the companies don’t "deplete those assets that would be available to satisfy a judgment" should they be sued by the U.S. and ordered to pay damages.

The Justice Department letter to Transocean called the company’s $1 billion stock dividend program "troubling."

Attorney General Eric Holder has said the American people won’t pay for cleanup costs for the biggest U.S. oil spill on record. The government will take the steps needed to ensure those responsible cover the expenses. The Justice Department is conducting civil and criminal investigations into the spill.

The letters ask for 30 days' notice of events including disbursements, sales, restructuring and acquisitions. The letters ask the companies to respond about whether they will agree to the Justice Department’s requests.

BP, headquartered in London, is the operator of the well pouring crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Anadarko, based in The Woodlands, Texas, owns 25% of the well.

Transocean, based in Geneva, Switzerland, owned the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded in an April 20 accident that killed 11 workers and sent oil gushing. Halliburton, based in Houston, provided drilling services. Mitsui & Co. (MITSY), based in Tokyo, owns a majority stake in Moex, which holds a 10% stake in the well.

BP was up 2.3% to $27.67 today. Anadarko fell 2.8% to $36.67. Transocean dropped 6.5% to $46.82. Halliburton was off 5.8% to $24.48. Mitsui fell 2.9% in New York to $240.12.

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