Alabama Gov. Bob Riley signed an executive order last week capping compensation for lawyers representing the state just hours before Attorney General Troy King filed two lawsuits against BP PLC and other companies for negligence in the Gulf oil disaster.

The order requires gubernatorial approval for any legal contract exceeding $195 an hour or containing a contingency-fee agreement. Riley said it reaffirms existing law and longstanding state policy, but was necessary because King previously tried to hire a law firm that would have collected 14% of any damages paid.

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