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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: The British oil giant BP has appointed a former US district judge to act as a company ombudsman. Stanley Sporkin will hear complaints from BP workers in Alaska and elsewhere. From London, Stephen Beard reports.


STEPHEN BEARD: BP has hired the former judge to help rescue its battered reputation. His job will be to listen to the workers concerns in the US about safety and other issues.

He will have a staff of two who will operate a 24-hour call center. They'll take complaints from BP workers across the U.S.

The company's been criticized for ignoring reports about pipe corrosion in Alaska long before the big oil spill there in the spring.

Analyst Stuart Fraser says the judge's appointment will help stem some of that criticism:

STUART FRASER: It's not going to get them off the hook as to what's happened. But at least it is a recognition that perhaps the company hasn't listened as much as it should have done to the people on the ground.

The former judge will be paid by BP but he is no oil industry stooge. In one of his cases he attacked a pipeline company's tactics as "reminiscent of Nazi Germany."

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.