Senators Call on AG DOJ to Investigate Transocean Ltd. Money Transfers
Owner of Destroyed Oil Rig in Gulf of Mexico to Move $1 Billion out of Company Accounts - Action Could Limit Company’s Liability
Washington, D.C. – After reports that Transocean Ltd., the owner of the destroyed oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, intends to distribute $1 billion to private shareholders, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote a letter with 17 of his Senate colleagues to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking that the Department of Justice look into the corporation’s financial transactions. The announcement came only hours after a closed-door meeting of company executives and weeks after the Transocean-owned Deepwater Horizon oil rig was destroyed, pumping massive amounts of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Senators Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Michael Bennet (D. Colo.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Robert Casey (D-Penn.) joined Wyden as co-signers.
In the letter, the Senators argued that the move by Transocean could further enhance the company’s protection from lawsuits and may make it harder for those negatively affected by the spill to seek claims against the company.
“We are concerned that such action to quickly move money out of corporate coffers to individual investors may make it more difficult to pursue liability claims against the company,” Wyden and his colleagues wrote. “Families of those who died in the disaster, the fishing industry that has been devastated by the oil spill and the governments that have worked full-time to clean up this spill deserve better.”
Transocean, in addition to limiting their liability for the oil spill, stands to make a $270 million profit from the insurance on Deepwater Horizon having insured it for more than it was worth.
“Transocean’s stockholders shouldn’t take huge profits from polluting our country’s Gulf Coast,” the letter says.
A copy of the letter follows:
May 24, 2010
The Honorable Eric Holder
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Attorney General Holder,
We write to you today to ask you to investigate the recent announcement by Transocean Limited, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, that it intends to distribute $1 billion to its share holders at a time when it may be responsible for financial damages related to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Transocean’s previous statements about their liability for this tragedy have been troubling. Last week, during hearings in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Transocean refused to accept any financial responsibility for the oil spill in the Gulf. Now, Transocean has confirmed its intent to pay out $1 billion in dividends to shareholders, an announcement first reported by the Associated Press after it was made during a closed door meeting in Switzerland. We are concerned that such action to quickly move money out of corporate coffers to individual investors may make it more difficult to pursue liability claims against the company. Families of those who died in the disaster, the fishing industry that has been devastated by the oil spill and the governments that have worked full-time to clean up this spill deserve better. Transocean has also reported that it expects to make a $270 million profit on its insurance policy for the Deepwater Horizon, since the rig was insured for more than it was worth.
Transocean’s stockholders should not take huge profits from polluting our country’s Gulf Coast. We urge you to investigate these corporate actions. We appreciate your prompt attention to our request and look forward to working with you in the future to ensure that companies that pollute our nation’s resources do not profit from such actions.