John Hueston has been honored with a 2015 California Lawyer Attorney of the Year (CLAY) award for his work securing a $5.1 billion settlement in Tronox Inc. v Anadarko Petroleum Corp. — the largest environmental settlement in U.S. history. This is the second time Hueston has received a CLAY award.
Hueston was appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice as trustee of the Anadarko Litigation Trust in 2011, with broad responsibilities to prosecute and defend all claims on behalf of the trust’s diverse beneficiaries, including the United States government, more than a dozen states, the Navajo Nation, and a class of individual tort victims.The trust’s case against Kerr-McGee was tried in federal bankruptcy court in the Southern District of New York from May through September of 2012. At trial, the trust alleged that Kerr-McGee executives fraudulently allocated the company’s massive environmental and tort liabilities from legacy businesses such as uranium mining and wood treatment facilities to Tronox, a spin-off entity created to serve as a dumping ground for the liabilities. Kerr-McGee then shuffled its oil and gas assets to a “clean” entity known as New Kerr-McGee which, once freed from the company’s historical liabilities, was primed for a lucrative acquisition that would net Kerr-McGee executives tens of millions of dollars in personal bonuses and stock profits. After finalizing the spin-off of Tronox, New Kerr-McGee was quickly acquired by Anadarko for $18 billion in 2006, leaving Kerr-McGee’s environmental and tort creditors unable to access the oil and gas assets to aid with remediation and cleanup efforts. Unable to support the mounting costs of the legacy liabilities, Tronox filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
After filing for bankruptcy protection in January 2009, Tronox filed the lawsuit against Anadarko. It implemented a confirmed reorganization plan in February 2011 that created the trust to prosecute the suit.
This is the second California Lawyer award for Hueston. His first came in 2007 for his role in the successful prosecution of Enron. executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling.
The CLAY awards recognize achievements in 17 areas of legal practice, honoring lawyers throughout the state whose accomplishments had a significant impact in 2014. A total of 62 attorneys were selected to receive 2015 awards.