Gulf oil spill: Moratorium judge owned shares in 17 oil and gas industry firms last year


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The New Orleans federal judge who struck down the Obama administration’s six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling in the wake of the Gulf oil spill owned shares in at least 17 oil and gas industry companies last year, documents released Friday by the federal courts administration show.

The 2009 financial disclosure report by U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman was made public by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts after media requests for an updated account of the judge’s oil and gas industry holdings. Feldman’s report for the previous year showed that he owned shares in about 20 companies involved with exploration, drilling or other industry activities, including Transocean and Halliburton, both at the heart of the ongoing disaster. None of the companies in his portfolio were parties to the appeal on which he ruled.
Feldman, appointed to the federal bench by President Reagan in 1983, reported last year that he had sold his Halliburton interests. But the report he filed with the federal court office earlier this month shows that he retained interest in Transocean, although he did not provide the value of his holdings or of interest or dividends.


A federal law requiring judges to step down from any case in which he or she owns shares in any party would likely force him to recuse himself from much, if not all, of the litigation arising out of the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

Feldman’s 2008 report said he had sold his interests in Quicksilver Resources, a natural gas and oil exploration company based in Fort Worth. His latest disclosure form, however, shows he earned dividends of less than $1,000 on his investment in the company last year, the value of which he reported at less than $15,000.

The financial disclosure forms require that judges provide only a range of values, rather than the actual amounts of their interests.

Feldman also bought shares in Exxon Mobil last year, according to the report, also with a value below $15,000. Dow Jones News Service reported that Feldman sold his Exxon holdings on June 22, just before hearing the case. Exxon Mobil has interests in the Gulf that were affected by the moratorium, Dow Jones reported.

The judge last year bought or retained interest of that same value range in Valero Energy Corp., Crosstex Energy, Petrohawk Energy Corp., Enterprise Product Partners, Energy Transfer Equity, Basic Energy Services, EV Energy Partners, Macquarie Infrastructure, El Paso Corp., Provident Energy Trust, Peabody Energy Corp. and Ocean Energy Notes, the report said.

Feldman reported that he sold shares in August in Atlas Energy Resources and BPZ Resource Inc., posting gains of less than $1,000 on each.


[Updated at 2:28 p.m.: Feldman had a very active and diversified stock profile. He reported 142 different companies that he had investments in last year, and he acquired as many new energy equities as he sold.]

The judge had the option of delaying release of his financial holdings by 10 days but waived that right to request redactions from the 14-page report.

--Carol J. Williams