US Judge Awards MARPOL Whistleblower $462,500
A federal judge in the United States has awarded Salvador Lopez, a former 3rd Engineer from the MV AQUAROSA, $462,500. The court’s order is provided here. But there may be even more reward money for Lopez in the months to come. The Filipino seafarer may collect an additional $462,500 depending on how the judge rules in another aspect of the case.
The award was made for his role in providing information of intentional MARPOL violations involving a ”magic pipe” which had been occuring on the vessel starting from its maiden voyage in June 2010. Because the company and the government agreed to a payment plan as part of a plea agreement, the first installment to Lopez will be paid on May 25, 2012. Prosecutors had previously asked the court to limit the the attorneys fees Lopez would have to pay his attorney, if an award was made. The court approved the award and ruled that it ”…sees no reason to delay payment of the award in this case to Salvador Lopez while resolving counsel’s fee issues.” So it is expected that the court will scrutinize and have to approve any attorneys fees paid to Lopez’s attorney – to ensure those fees are not unreasonable or excessive.
One of the defendants in the case, EFPLOIA SHIPPING Company, had filed opposition to whistblower payments, as discussed in more detail in a prior post. If the judge does not find EFPLOIA’s arguments to be persuasive, Lopez stands to be awarded an additional $462,500.
Investigations into the violation began in February 2011 after Lopez had apparently taken over 300 photos on his cell phone documenting the violations and provided them to the Coast Guard in Baltimore.
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