Thursday, September 19, 2013

Catholics Should Note British Petroleum’s Ads Exposing Fraud and False Claims

By Father Gordon J. MacRae

(These Stone Walls) In the three years since, British Petroleum has spent more than $14 billion on the response and clean-up of Gulf waters and seashore, and more than $11 billion to settle over 300,000 claims for damages brought by individuals and businesses, most of whom suffered real losses and devastating hardships.

But not all. Among those claims, investigators have found an alarming amount of fraud, so much fraud that the company was forced to look more carefully at every claim. BP’s recent full-page ads have described these fraud attempts in terms that should sound familiar to Catholics who have been paying attention to some of the published reports at the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, The Media Report, and These Stone Walls. A recent BP ad in The Wall Street Journal (September 5, 2013) quoted Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce describing the settlement process at BP:
“Enter a parade of trial lawyers, a who’s who of some of the nation’s wealthiest lawyers. They smell big bucks and want a piece of the action . . . . The result is that thousands of claimants that suffered no losses are coming forward, obtaining outrageous windfalls, and making a mockery of what was intended to be a fair and honest settlement process.” (Thomas J. Donohue, The Weekly Standard, July 8, 2013)
Jay Timmons, President of the National Association of Manufacturers, added another point that should sound familiar to informed Catholics:
“BP’s settlement has spawned a cottage industry. Trial lawyers are actively recruiting businesses to make claims against BP . . . . What’s happening on the Gulf isn’t isolated to BP. All manufacturers have a stake, because next time it may be one of us in trial lawyers’ cross hairs . . . . “ (Jay Timmons, The Washington Times, July 8, 2013)
More recently, former FBI Director Louis Freeh was commissioned to conduct an independent investigation of fraud and misconduct in the Gulf settlement claims process. Among other things, he found that lawyers engaged in pervasive improper and unethical conduct, and corrupted the claims process to enrich themselves. British Petroleum has made the Louis Freeh Report available to the public at

Back in April, I wrote a post for TSW entitled, “Why the Catholic Abuse Narrative Needs a Fraud Task Force.” It described some of the fraud attempts British Petroleum has uncovered and exposed. On the same day BP ran one of its full-page ads, The Wall Street Journal, (August 29), also published a news brief about a new round of claims and settlements in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa. $5.2 million was just paid to 26 people claiming abuse by 10 priests – almost all of the priests are deceased – alleged to have occurred 30 to 50 years ago. This was the fourth round of settlements in Dubuque since 2006 for a total of $17.2 million.

Remember my recent post, “News on Sale”? It was about the diminishment of much of the mainstream news media, and especially the erosion of the media’s ability to act as a watchdog for society. I quoted a noted career newspaperman who wrote that the role of responsible bloggers is to hold the rest of the media accountable to the truth.

So let’s do that. It’s a symptom of the news media’s erosion that it reports on stories such as that settlement in the Archdiocese of Dubuque without ever asking any of the necessary questions that would arise in any thinking person. Where were these 26 accusers – mostly men now in their 50s and 60s – during all the previous settlements? Where were they when the national story broke in 2002? Does anyone really believe that every two years since 2006 another 26 middle-aged men in Iowa suddenly recall being sexually abused by priests forty to fifty years earlier?

Iowa isn’t the only field of dreams for tort lawyers who usually glean up to forty percent or more of such settlements – sometimes for doing little more than writing a few letters demanding money. The math tells the story best. Out of that $17.2 million in settlements from the Archdiocese of Dubuque, about $7 million has gone to the tort lawyers. One such lawyer – now serving time in prison with me – described the mediated settlement process in my own diocese, the Diocese of Manchester: “We provide the train. Anyone who wants to make money need only get aboard.”

At his A Ram in the Thicket blog, writer Ryan MacDonald recently posted an article entitled, “In Fr Gordon MacRae Case, Whack-A-Mole Justice Holds Court.” He analyzed the Bishop-Accountability website that has published a diocese-by-diocese, priest-by-priest description of every claim of abuse – proven or not, corroborated or not – that has resulted in a settlement for alleged abuse. The site is set up and maintained for the stated purpose of serving as a clearinghouse for the news media. The Media Report has examined that claim, and found it scurrilous.


I want to tell you a story that gets lost in the shuffle as we focus on the claims for which I am in prison. One day in 2004, after Bishop-Accountability published the files of scores of accused priests handed over by my diocese, I was awaiting a medical appointment in the prison infirmary. In the crowded waiting room, I sat next to another priest of my diocese in prison for accusations in the mid-1990s. He told me that he received a letter the previous day from a church lawyer asking him to cooperate in a settlement of two new claims brought by two men the priest said he had never met or even heard of. In the end, however, he remained silent about the settlement, believing our diocese was acting in his best interest... (continued)


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