With the BP oil spill finally stopped, it’s now time to make sure all Gulf Coast residents who suffered losses are appropriately compensated for their immediate and long-term losses. While some of the terms and conditions of the claims process put together by BP and Ken Feinberg are still unclear, there have been numerous reports that its creation is helping BP more than the Gulf Coast community. I happen to share this belief. As of September 22nd, the BP-Feinberg team was still not paying claims. In fact, Feinberg has been just as bad as BP and that’s very bad. But when you consider BP is paying Feinberg, and Feinberg won’t disclose his compensation agreement, it’s sort of easy to figure out why victims are getting the short end of the stick.
When first conceived, the fund was supposed to be an adjunct to the civil justice system, not an obstacle to prevent people from holding BP and other corporations fully accountable for losses that are enormous and evolving. Thus far that doesn’t appear to be the case. Feinberg operates sort of like a snake oil salesman selling his wares to an unsuspecting audience, and laughing all the way to the bank. As they say where I come from – “this fella bears watching!”
Now that emergency payment protocols for the fund are known, there are still many questions that need to be answered about the future and final claim protocols. So far, Feinberg is continuing what BP started and that is, paying as little as possible on valid claims. Claimants should not be forced to accept final payments before the full impact of the spill is realized. Neither should the final protocols require Claimants to waive their future legal rights in order to receive a final payment from the fund. There is even speculation that these waivers sought by BP would apply not just to BP, but to all the corporations responsible for the disaster. To continue letting BP call the shots on claims is unacceptable. We run the risk of essentially letting all of these bad actors off the hook for the worst environmental disaster ever in this country.
While all of the media attention has been largely on BP, there are others who share blame for the disaster. It’s crucial that Claimants not be required to sign these waivers which are really complete releases of all liability. The world now knows that the involved companies are all pointing fingers at each other on who bears responsibility for the spill. In reality, these companies have shown nothing but contempt towards the Gulf Coast community – distorting or hiding the full impact of the disaster to avoid accountability – and delaying needed payouts to victims. To force Gulf Coast residents and businesses to grant them blanket immunity, in exchange for a potentially insufficient settlement, is unconscionable and morally wrong.
As of mid-September, only about 3,300 people and businesses in Alabama who had filed claims with BP over the oil spill had actually received payments. It’s being reported that $19.6 million has been paid. Most of the payments have gone to Claimants in Baldwin and Mobile counties. Many local officials, including Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, have let it be known that they are disappointed with Ken Feinberg, the claims chief, who took over handling of claims from BP on August 23rd. For example, Mayor Kennon told the Mobile Press-Register that claims were being paid too slowly and the checks too small. He said multimillion-dollar claims are outstanding and that no businesses have been “made whole.”
Feinberg, who is a master at both public relations and political spin, is being paid by BP. Thus far he has refused to let the public know what his compensation package from BP is. That may wind up being a big time problem for Feinberg, BP and the federal government, when the claims boss is finally forced to disclose this information. Based on what we have seen, there can be no doubt where Feinberg’s real allegiance lies!
It’s also important to remember that BP is not showing magnanimity by participating in this compensation program. Fund or no fund, the oil giant is legally obligated to pay all of the claims. Even if folks on the Gulf Coast decide the fund will provide the fairest and quickest compensation, nobody should give up legal rights they now have under current law. It’s very clear that the adverse effects of this disaster will last for years. BP and the others responsible to compensate the victims of the oil spill will try to get out as cheaply as possible. Regardless of BP’s $100 million television advertising campaign, none of the wrongdoers, including BP, have any real feelings for the tens of thousands of folks they have hurt and will continue to hurt.
Sources: Associated Press, Mobile Press Register and Bloomberg
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.