By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York and Ohio have asked a federal judge to appoint them lead plaintiffs to handle shareholder class-action lawsuits against BP Plc over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
In a Tuesday evening filing with the federal district court in New Orleans, the states said their BP investments had lost at least $181 million because of the British oil company's alleged misleading of investors about its safety procedures and ability to respond to the oil spill.
"New York and Ohio have an extremely large financial interest in this litigation," believed larger than any other possible lead plaintiff, lawyers for New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray wrote.
In a separate filing with the New Orleans court, three California pension funds that said they had lost at least $10.9 million in BP securities also sought lead plaintiff status.
Lead plaintiffs in shareholder lawsuits handle litigation and can negotiate settlements. Courts often favor investors with larger losses when designating lead plaintiffs.
DiNapoli is the trustee for the New York State Common Retirement Fund, one of the nation's largest public pension funds. Cordray represents four Ohio pension funds. The funds together oversee more than $275 billion of assets.
"We aim to compensate investors for what we believe was securities fraud, and effect real change in the way BP and other companies do business," Cordray said in a statement.
DiNapoli added: "BP misled investors with false and misleading statements about the safety of its drilling operations and its ability to fix events like the oil spill."
BP did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for August 11.
New York and Ohio asked the federal court to name Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Berman DeValerio as co-lead counsel. The California funds asked that Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP and Barroway Topaz Kessler Meltzer & Check LLP be so designated.
BP faces more than 300 lawsuits arising from the April 20 explosion that led to the spill, including at least 10 filed on behalf of investors.
The cases are Greenfield et al v. BP Plc et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 10-01683; and McClurg v. BP Plc et al in the same court, No. 10-01881.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)