The latest “entrant” is the law firm of Emerson Poynter LLP, which, according to a press release, has “launched an investigation into possible illegal conduct relating to BP’s 401(k) plan for U.S. employees known as the BP Employee Savings Plan (“ESP”). The firm, with offices in Little Rock, Arkansas and Houston, Texas, says that it is “investigating whether fiduciaries of the BP Employee Savings Plan may have violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.”
It notes that “violations may have occurred by continuing to offer and maintain the BP Stock Fund as a BP Employee Savings Plan investment option when it was imprudent to do so,” going on to cite the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, and the subsequent (and continuing) leaking of millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
“The consequences of these events are devastating and will have long-term effects on the Gulf region as well as BP’s financial worth,” according to the law firm, which goes on to note that “since the explosion and eruption of oil, BP’s stock price has fallen by approximately half, accounting for more than $100 billion in lost stock value”. At the end of 2009, BP’s U.S. Employee Savings Plan had more than $2 billion invested in BP stock, costing participants what the law firm says is “believed to be hundreds of millions of dollars”.
Since the oil rig explosion, a number of firms have announced investigations into the 401(k) plan (see Lanier Law Firm Investigating BP 401(k), Scott+Scott Announces BP 401(k) Plan Investigation, Another Law Firm Investigating BP 401(k) Plan, Law Firm Probing Potential BP ERISA Violations), and two participant lawsuits have already been filed (see FL Woman Sues BP Over 401(k) Stock Losses, Ex-Employee Sues BP Over Plan Losses ).