Baker Botts chief to head safety committee for BP

Baker Botts has secured its place as a key adviser to BP following the appointment of name partner James Baker to lead a US safety advisory committee to the oil giant.

Baker is heading an independent 11-member panel that will investigate safety management systems nationwide at BP Products North America, the subsidiary responsible for BP’s US refining operations. This follows an explosion at the Texas City Refinery in March, which killed 15 and injured 170.

Baker, a former US Secretary of State during the first Bush administration and grandson of the founder of Houston-based Baker Botts, is understood to have been appointed because of his political influence and expertise within the oil and gas sector.

As part of Baker’s appointment, Baker Botts has also been retained as key legal adviser to the review panel. The firm’s team includes corporate partners Joe Cialone and Joe Poff, environmental partners Pam Giblin and Mark Farley and litigation partner David Sterling.

BP has set aside $700m (£405.3m) to compensate victims of the explosion, while each of the 11 panel members will receive $100,000 (£57,900) for their work.

Baker Botts has previously represented BP in the US, although this accounted for less than 1 per cent of the firm’s revenue over the last five years. A spokesman said the firm was winding down this representation in order to avoid conflicts.

It is understood that Baker and his wife also sold 675 shares of BP stock as part of his agreement to oversee the panel.

The independent panel, which includes former US senator Slade Gorton and president of the Nuclear Energy Institute Skip Bowman, will deliver a written report within a year and will make its recommendations public.