BP PLC today named two lawyers to serve as trustees of the planned $20 billion fund for oil spill victims, on the same day the company announced an initial payment to the fund.
The two trustees are Kent Syverud, dean of the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, and John Martin Jr., who served as a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York from 1990 to 2003.
Martin (above) is now a name partner at Martin & Obermaier in New York. While a judge, he oversaw litigation involving insurance coverage and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In 2004, while of counsel with Debevoise & Plimpton, he represented a group of former federal judges who were seeking to have their voices heard at the U.S. Supreme Court on the role of federal sentencing guidelines.
Syverud, formerly the law dean at Vanderbilt University, specialized in studying class actions and other complex civil litigation before he entered academic administration. Neither he nor Martin could immediately be reached for comment.
In its statement announcing the trustees, BP said that it has made its first payment, of $3 billion, into the fund. The company said an additional $2 billion deposit will be made by the end of 2010. After that, it will deposit $1.25 billion per quarter until the deposits total $20 billion.
Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, who has represented the U.S. Department of Justice in negotiations with BP, said in a statement that the initial payment by the company is “an important step toward honoring its commitment to the president and the residents and business owners in the Gulf region.”
UPDATE (3:02 p.m.): In a phone interview, Martin said the trustees’ primary function, at least initially, will be to evaluate the collateral that BP will put up to ensure it is adequate. The collateral will allow Citigroup, which is the fund’s paying agent, to expedite its payments to oil spill victims.
Martin said he’s not sure yet what form that collateral will take but it could be, for example, stakes in existing wells. “That’s one of the things we’re going to have to talk about,” he said.
He said he came to the trustee role after conversations with BP’s outside counsel, including Jamie Gorelick and William Perlstein of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr and Robert Ott of Arnold & Porter.
Photo by Rick Kopstein.