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Citgo Hires Ex-BP, Deepwater Horizon Lawyer as General Counsel

Aug. 10, 2021, 11:40 PM

Citgo Petroleum Corp., a U.S. oil refiner once controlled by Venezuela’s state-owned oil and gas company, announced Tuesday its appointment of a new general counsel in Mark Holstein.

Holstein, a 25-year veteran of the legal group at British oil giant BP PLC’s Americas arm, had been serving as interim general counsel for Citgo since December, the Houston-based company said. Citgo parted ways with its former general counsel Judith Colbert that same month amid an ongoing U.S. federal investigation involving its former Venezuelan parent, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.

“Citgo holds itself to the highest standards of moral, legal, and ethical behavior,” Carlos Jordá, the company’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Mark brings a wealth of experience and insight dealing with complex legal issues related to the energy industry, and we welcome him to this vitally important position at Citgo.”

Citgo said Holstein will oversee all aspects of its legal strategy, including material litigation, and advise senior management. The Trump administration in 2019 gave control of the company to Venezuela’s opposition.

Holstein reports to the company’s vice president of legal and government affairs Jack Lynch, a former deputy group general counsel at BP America Inc. Citgo named Lynch last year to serve as its compliance chief as the company grappled with an ongoing U.S. bribery probe related to PDVSA.

Earlier this year, Citgo hired another former BP employee, Steven Scarpino, to be its chief ethics and compliance officer. Scarpino, who is not a lawyer, spent a dozen years at BP, where he was most recently a director of ethics and compliance.

During his time at BP, Holstein was chief counsel for Deepwater Horizon claims, a role that saw him work closely with Lynch in taking the lead in litigation related to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. That disaster ultimately cost BP billions of dollars in environmental remediation and litigation costs.

After leaving BP, Holstein joined the Travelers Cos. lnc., an insurance giant with a deep bench of in-house lawyers, to manage the company’s insurance defense practice. Holstein, who began his legal career in 1990 as a trial lawyer at Chicago’s Keevers & Hittle, left Travelers in 2019.

Holstein and his wife, who live in Houston, have also worked as touring illusionists, according to online profiles for the couple and listings for them with the Texas Association of Magicians.

At Citgo, Holstein moves into a permanent general counsel role as the company faces a number of challenges stemming from the frayed relationship between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments.

Bloomberg News reported this week that Citgo is one of the few cards left for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to play in his bid to topple President Nicolas Maduro. President Joe Biden rejected in June a call by Maduro—charged last year in a drug trafficking case—to lift U.S. sanctions against the country.

Citgo has hired outside law firms in recent years as it mulled a potential bankruptcy filing. The company is also facing pension-related litigation from company retirees.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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