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News Story
Updated: 10/24/2013 09:40:32PM

Lawyer fired from BP claims program sues company

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By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An attorney who was fired by the court-supervised administrator of BP’s settlement with Gulf Coast businesses and residents is suing her former employer and the London-based oil giant.

In a defamation lawsuit filed Monday in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, Christine Reitano argues that claims administrator Patrick Juneau fired her “for no reason at all” several days after her husband resigned in June from his own job working on the settlement program.

In July, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier appointed former FBI Director Louis Freeh to investigate allegations that Reitano’s husband, Lionel Sutton III, improperly received a portion of settlement proceeds for claims he referred to a law firm before joining Juneau’s staff.

Freeh issued a report in September that cleared Juneau of wrongdoing but concluded that top members of his staff engaged in conduct that was improper, unethical and possibly criminal. He recommended turning over his report to federal authorities so they could determine whether Sutton, Reitano or two other attorneys broke any laws.

Reitano’s suit claims Freeh, in his “apparent zeal to find fraud and conflicts,” erroneously concluded that she had retained a referral fee interest in claims she had referred to a law firm before she went to work for Juneau.

“Ms. Reitano was fired only on the suspicion of a conflict which can be proved to be non-existent — then or now,” it says.

Reitano’s suit also accuses BP of defaming her with “scandalous, false and reckless allegations.”

“BP began its malicious defamation campaign in court filings and then escalated its slander war to a full-on media assault with press releases and paid advertisements boldly identifying Ms. Reitano and branding her as a criminal engaged in fraudulent misconduct,” her suit says. “They have obviously not checked the available and discoverable facts, because it can be easily shown that Ms. Reitano has only acted professionally, ethically and has performed her duties dutifully.”

A spokeswoman for BP said the company wouldn’t comment on the suit’s allegations. A spokesman for Juneau didn’t immediately respond to a telephone call and email seeking comment.


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