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    BP Stockholders Try to Pull Golden Parachute Away from Retiring CEO

    Two large stockholders of BP PLC ask an Alaska court to freeze the $140 million retirement package for outgoing chief executive John Browne.

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Two large BP PLC stockholders asked an Alaska court on Friday to freeze millions in retirement benefits for outgoing chief executive John Browne, saying he does not deserve compensation in light of recent crises at the oil giant's facilities in Texas and Alaska, The Associated Press reported.

    At stake is at least $140 million in cash bonuses, as well as stock, stock options, long-term performance pay and pension benefits, according to documents obtained by the AP.

    The lawsuit was brought by the London Pensions Fund Authority, which owns 3.2 million shares of BP stock, and the U.S.-based Unite Here National Retirement Fund, a clothing, hotel and restaurant union that owns 6,000 shares, the report said.

    The motion, filed in Alaska's Superior Court, asks that Browne's retirement package be placed in a court-approved trust while shareholders litigate with BP over alleged violations of worker safety and environmental protection laws. It bases its claims on the partial shutdown of the massive Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska last year and a refinery explosion in Texas City, Texas, that killed 15 people and injured more than 100 others in 2005.

    As CSNews Online reported last month, an investigative panel, headed by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, found that all five of BP PLC's U.S. oil refineries have significant safety problems due to company complacency.

    "Instances of a lack of operating disciplines, toleration of serious deviations from safe operating practices, and apparent complacency toward serious process safety risks existed at each of the U.S. refineries," the independent panel said in a news release.

    It recommended that the British oil major overhaul safety procedures at all its U.S. refineries based on the dangerous conditions found at all the plants.

    At the time, Browne said he understood that there were serious safety problems at the company's U.S. oil refineries, and that BP was doing everything possible to prevent another major accident. "BP gets it, and I get it too. ... Our progress has been encouraging but there is much more to do. Members of our refining leadership team will be meeting with the panel within the week to address how to implement those recommendations," Browne said in a statement released after the panel made its recommendations public.

    "This has happened on my watch, and as chief executive I have the responsibility to learn from what has happened," Browne then noted at a news conference.

    Browne is scheduled to leave the CEO position by the end of July.

    William S. Lerach, a San Diego-based attorney for the plaintiffs, asserted Friday that Browne was directly responsible for the company's failures.

    "We do not think someone who has been pushed out of the company for a failed job ought to be leaving with a wheelbarrow full of money," Lerach told the AP. "The stockholders of the company want the company managed in an above-board manner."

    BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said the company doesn't comment on pending legal matters.

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