The federal judge who overturned Barack Obama’s offshore drilling moratorium appears to own stock in numerous companies involved in the offshore oil industry — including Transocean, which leased the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig to BP prior to its April 20 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico — according to 2008 financial disclosure reports.

So Yahoo reports. It will not come as a big shock to Climate Progress readers — see my June 9 post, “58 percent of federal trial judges in oil-affected states have a stake in oil industry.” Here are the details:

According to Feldman’s 2008 financial disclosure form, posted online by Judicial Watch [PDF], the judge owned stock in Transocean, as well as five other companies that are either directly or indirectly involved in the offshore drilling business …

The report discloses that in 2008, Judge Feldman held less than $15,000 worth of stock in Transocean, as well as similar amounts — federal rules only require that judges report a range of values — in Hercules Offshore, ATP Oil and Gas, and Parker Drilling. All of those companies offer contract offshore drilling services and operate offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Judge Feldman also owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in notes offered by Ocean Energy, Inc., a company that offers “concept design and manufacturing design of submersible drilling rigs,” according to its web site.

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Think Progress further reports:

The drilling company, Hornbeck Offshore Services of Covington, La., claimed financial distress from the imposition of the moratorium. In the ruling handed down this afternoon, Judge Feldman agreed, writing that the administration made an “arbitrary and capricious” decision that would have an “immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region, and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country.” Like many judges presiding in the Gulf region, Feldman owns lots of energy stocks, including Transocean, Halliburton, and one of BP’s largest U.S. private shareholders — JP Morgan Chase (28.3 percent). Here’s a list of Feldman’s income in 2008 (amounts listed unless under $1,000):

JP Morgan Chase, BlackRock ($12000- $36000)
Ocean Energy ($1000 – $2500)
NGP Capital Resources ($1000 – $2500)
Quicksilver Resources ($5000 – $15000)
Hercules Offshore ($6000 – $17500)
Provident Energy
Peabody Energy
PenGrowth Energy
Atlas Energy Resources
Parker Drilling
TXCO Resources
EV Energy Partners
Rowan Companies
BPZ Resources
El Paso Corp
Chesapeake Energy
ATP Oil & Gas

In his opinion today, Feldman wrote, “Oil and gas production is quite simply elemental to Gulf communities.” Indeed, it is so elemental that the justice system is invested in the oil and gas industry. As TP’s Ian Millhiser has written, “Industry ties among federal judges are so widespread that they are beginning to endanger the courts’ ability to conduct routine business. Last month, so many members of the right-wing Fifth Circuit were forced to recuse themselves from an appeal against various energy and chemical companies that there weren’t enough untainted judges left to allow the court to hear the case.”

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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced that the administration will “immediately appeal to the 5th Circuit.”

If he owned a small amount of one or two stocks it would be one thing, but with this big of an investment in the energy industry, he should have recused himself.  I don’t understand why judges simply don’t buy broad-based index funds. They avoid this issue entirely and typically do not get outperformed over time by stock pickers.

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