Congress Takes Aim at Anadarko Liability

BP may have the biggest bill to pay for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but a congressional thorn in the side of BP hasn't forgotten about Anadarko Petroleum.
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(Anadarko story updated for Anadarko CEO's statement criticizing BP's "reckless" actions)

NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the man who brought the live BP spill-cam to screens across the land, has a new target -- and it's not good news for investors in

Anadarko Petroleum

(APC) - Get Report

stock.

A day after

BP

(BP) - Get Report

CEO Tony Hayward's testimony on Capitol Hill -- during which Hayward tried to shift the blame to the blowout preventer manufactured by

Cameron International

(CAM)

-- Markey is taking aim at Anadarko, which owns 25% of the failed BP well. Mitsui & Co., the Japanese oil company that owns a 10% stake in the well, is also in Markey's sight line -- or, if you are Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), "shakedown" line.

Mitsui owns a 70% stake in an oil exploration subsidiary that holds the 10% stake in the BP well.

Late on Friday, after the market closed, Anadarko released its first statement directly speaking to the oil spill, with its CEO James Hackett making a no-holds-barred attack on BP.

The statement read, in part: "The mounting evidence clearly demonstrates that this tragedy was preventable and the direct result of BP's reckless decisions and actions. Frankly, we are shocked by the publicly available information that has been disclosed in recent investigations and during this week's testimony that, among other things, indicates BP operated unsafely and failed to monitor and react to several critical warning signs during the drilling of the Macondo well. BP's behavior and actions likely represent gross negligence or willful misconduct and thus affect the obligations of the parties under the operating agreement."

On the legal issues surrounding liability, Hackett stated that Andarko's agreement with BP provides that BP is responsible to its co-owners for damages caused by its gross negligence or willful misconduct.

Anadarko also strived to point out that it won't be asking the U.S. to foot any bill, or that it would try to avoid any liabilities it might be subject to under law.

Seeking its rights relative to BP's performance "will in no way shift any financial burden to the American taxpayer," the statement read. "We recognize that ultimately we have obligations under Federal law related to the oil spill, but will look to BP to continue to pay all legitimate claims as they have repeatedly stated that they will do."

The question about the liabilities to be assumed by Anadarko and other companies linked to the

BP

(BP) - Get Report

oil spill has lingered with a level of uncertainty equal to the general level of uncertainty regarding all things BP oil spill.

In fact, on several of the worst days during the now eight week old BP oil spill, Anadarko shares have taken an even bigger beating that BP.

When Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said during Capitol Hill testimony on June 9 that BP would be made to pay the claims of oil rig workers who lost jobs due to the federal moratorium on new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Anadarko shares ended the day down 18%, more than BP's 15% decline on the same day.

In a written version of his Capitol Hill testimony opening statement, BP CEO Tony Hayward notably referred to all the companies with liabilities in the oil spill "including BP," as if it were just one among a bunch with equal exposure to the oil spill crisis.

In an interview to be broadcast over the weekend, Rep. Markey tells a

Bloomberg

political talk show that Anadarko and Mitsui should set aside money to pay their share of liabilities from the oil spill.

Markey is quoted by

Bloomberg

saying, Anadarko and Mitsui should be "contributing to any fund that is constructed for any part of the reconstruction...They cannot escape responsibility."

BP told Bloomberg that its partners on the well aren't expected to pay into the $20 billion escrow fund. However, in his call with investors on Wednesday, BP CFO Byron Grote was vague in his answer when an analyst asked why BP would make financial concessions to the U.S. government without consulting the other companies with liabilities in the oil spill.

Fitch recently downgraded Anadarko from "stable" to "negative," and estimates as much as $6 billion in Anadarko liabilities from the BP oil spill. Anadarko has shed more than $15 billion in market cap since the oil spill began.

Nevertheless, Anadarko shares and shares of rig operator

Transocean

(RIG) - Get Report

were rallying on Friday afternoon.

>>Energy Stock Winners: Transocean, Anadarko

-- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.

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