aerial photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico more than 50 miles southeast of Venice, La., the Deepwater Horizon oil rig is seen burning

From Mr James Fairrie.

Sir, As a BP shareholder I was pleased to read your observations of shameful opportunism being pursued by special purpose law firms in the US with the official connivance of the US legal system (“America’s shameful shakedown of BP”, editorial June 20.) However, speaking as a now retired company director of businesses that have operated in the US, it became evident to me at an early stage that the essence of the US legal system in practice is that the accused is guilty unless he can prove innocence, and that largely depends on how much he can spend. America and Americans have much to be rightfully proud of. Their legal system is not one of them.

BP’s lawyers and the company management that oversaw their advice could and should have been alert to the perils of relying on American concepts of fair play in the interpretation of the settlement they agreed in law.

In the corporate world of law in the US such a concept does not exist; unless, that is, you consider extortion fair. As usual it is the shareholders that will bear the burden.

James Fairrie, London SW7, UK

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