Fernandina Beach Resident Takes on BP Oil

Charis Moule may be tiny, but her smallish stature has not kept her from filing a class-action lawsuit against BP Oil over 401(k) stock losses.

local gathering on June 26, 2010 at noon. Forming a symbolic “line in the sand,” their banner (with a version of the BP logo, dripping in oil) read: “How Many Millions of Gallons? Economies devastated, Fisheries decimated, Environment destroyed.”
Hands Across the Sand gathering was held in Fernandina this summer to protest against offshore oil drilling and BP's oil spill.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing Columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insights on various topics in Steve’s Marketplace column.

___STEVE’S MARKETPLACE ___

Charis Moule may be tiny, but her smallish stature has not kept her from taking on a big oil company.

Moule, who now lives in Fernandina Beach, used to work for Amoco Oil Company — before it was bought out by British Petroleum. She later left the company, but kept her 401(k) funds there. Within the company retirement plan, she owned shares of BP stock.

Because of the enormous financial and legal implications of the much-publicized oil spill, BP’s stock had lost half of its previous value. Moule didn’t idly sit and watch. She took matters into her own hands.

After getting the run-around in trying to sell her BP shares as they dropped in price, the diminutive ex-employee took it one step further. She began to complain about her experience.

A major law firm was all ears. They were constructing a class-action lawsuit against BP, representing employees involved in the 401(k) who have lost money in the company’s stock.

And they needed an individual to whom to attach the lawsuit. They chose Moule. Now, if you search online for anything related to the BP-targeted lawsuits, you will see the following headline: “Florida woman sues BP over 401(k) stock losses.” The woman is Moule.

Articles have been written about the lawsuit in various publications. The publicity has been shocking to Moule. She never thought she’d be the focal point for a major lawsuit against a major company.

But the song has a lot of the same lyrics. Moule says the company encouraged or even cajoled employees to invest in its stock. It is positioned many times as a display of company loyalty. And we’ve heard the familiar song before.

Moule originally owned shares of Amoco, a U.S.-based company. The shares were converted into shares of BP (a foreign company now infamously known as “Big Problem”) once the merger took place. All was going well — BP’s shares performed nicely — until the oil spill.

Then Moule spilled the beans on BP. The lawsuit reportedly contends that BP breached its fiduciary responsibility by allowing employees to collectively hold $2.45 billion worth of its shares in retirement plans. With the decline in BP’s stock price, and the pending liquidations, the amount of holdings in BP shares has inevitably declined since then.

The financial damage to employees has already been done. And that is apparently the basis for the lawsuit. Once again, employees lose millions in a company stock. It’s happened before, and will probably happen again.

Moule lost thousands of dollars herself in the BP shares, having to wait weeks to sell them. It’s another story of David going against Goliath. The little guy against the big guy.

Steve Nicklas

Moule is just sitting back now — and watching the legal sequence proceed. It could take months, or years, before a verdict is reached. “We’ll see if I make a penny off of it,” Moule opines. “It certainly has been interesting though.”

(Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor who lives on Amelia Island. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or send eMail to: [email protected])

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A wine reception to benefit Keep Nassau Beautiful will be held Thursday, Aug. 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Hampton Inn & Suites in downtown Fernandina Beach. The event, titled “Keeping Our Beaches Beautiful,” will be free and open to the public. Its focus will be to raise money for KNB and its efforts to protect our beaches from potential damage from the BP oil spill, hurricanes, or other hazards. Attendees can browse the offerings of local sponsors and sign up for door prizes and raffles. KNB will have a sign-up sheet for residents wanting to volunteer or donate to its cause. Contact Steve Nicklas at 904-277-1882 or 904-753-0236 for further information.

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