On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman struck down the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. A review of Judge Feldman's 2009 Financial Disclosure Report (pdf) shows that Feldman is significantly invested in BP, which is on the hook for the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
The latest information that we have available shows that Judge Feldman holds investments in several funds run by Blackrock, which holds a billion shares of BP. Blackrock is BP's largest single shareholder. Judge Feldman discloses a financial interest in Blackrock's Floating Rate Income Strategies Fund, the Limited Duration Income Trust and the Enhanced Dividend Achievers Trust. He lists each of these Blackrock investments as having a value of up to $15,000.
At least some of the value is in BP stock. The latest SEC filing for Blackrock Enhanced Dividend Achievers Trust, for example, shows it had money in BP.
Feldman's energy holdings include some 17 companies in the industry. His disclosure form for 2008 showed he owned and sold stock in Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon rig. Within the last year, he also held stock in a company called Noble Corporation. Noble is currently operating two drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico that are sitting idle because of this drilling ban. For one of those rigs, the ban costs Noble roughly $459,000 per day. Feldman reports selling those shares last year.
Then there's Exxon-Mobil, which also has a Gulf rig idled by the moratorium. Judge Feldman owned Exxon stock on Tuesday, making a special note of it on his financial disclosure reportL "The Exxon stock ... was sold at the opening of the stock market on June 22, 2010, prior to the opening of a Court hearing on the Oil Spill Moratorium case." That was the day he made his ruling to overturn this moratorium.
When Feldman began hearings on the case -- and right up until the day of the ruling -- he remained an Exxon shareholder, ruling on a case that would affect the financial future of a company he held stock in.
Judge Feldman's office told us today that the judge says didn't learn he was an Exxon shareholder until Monday night. He instructed his stockbroker to sell his shares the next day.
The district court in Louisiana on which Judge Feldman sits reportedly has systems in place to catch conflicts of interest like this. Apparently those systems work about as well as a blowout preventer on a 5000-foot-deep well.