Ken Feinberg, with help from BP, developed a plan which was supposed to compensate individuals and businesses who have suffered losses as a result of the BP oil spill. Section 3 of the official claims protocol specifically restricts contact between the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) and Claimants who have hired legal counsel. On August 23rd, our lawyers began filing claims on behalf of our clients with GCCF in hopes of obtaining prompt emergency payments. The claims filed were accompanied by all of the documentation required by GCCF. Everything needed for claims to be processed and paid were filed with GCCF. Our lawyers were clearly identified on each claims application for our clients.
Within 48 hours after filing, our clients began receiving personal contacts by GCCF staff requesting new claim forms and other information. This conduct clearly violates ethical standards, is outrageous, and is unacceptable. Feinberg and the GCCF created the protocol and contend they have a system in place to manage claims. But Claimants are having to contend with lots of confusion and delay brought on by the GCCF. We are concerned that legitimate claims aren’t being processed properly. It’s quite obvious that the claims process was designed with input from BP and is primarily for BP’s benefit and gives the oil giant an advantage over individuals and businesses who have been devastated economically.
These contacts violate Section 3 of the protocol and will not be tolerated. We put the GCCF on notice that the protocol must be followed and our clients’ claims handled promptly, in a fair manner, and paid. Not only is the GCCF delaying payments to persons in need, they are wasting time, effort and money.
Each of our clients who were contacted, numbering over 200, had previously been assigned Claimant identification numbers by BP, which were in the GCCF system. Additionally, each client had filed the required claims with supporting information with GCCF. At the time of filing, our clients were assigned a claim identification number. GCCF had on file the names of each lawyer from our firm handling claims for a client. This would have been known to GCCF at the times of the improper contacts. Nevertheless, improper contacts were made by GCCF and our clients were told to fill out new claim forms and send them in to GCCF. It appears that many of our clients now have at least two claim identification numbers, which is very confusing to say the least.
These contacts are an interference with the contractual relationship with our clients. Feinberg and GCCF were put on notice to make no further contact with any client represented by our law firm. We attempted to cooperate fully with Feinberg and GCCF and were shocked at his allowing this conduct. Lawyers from our firm had met with Feinberg personally and discussed the claims process with him. Our desire was to first file emergency claims on behalf of clients who elected to first deal with BP’s claims process and then file with GCCF once Feinberg took over the claims process from BP.
Our goal is to represent our clients and obtain for them all which they are legally entitled to. But our experience with BP, and now with the GCCF, has not been very good. On September 8th, Feinberg denied that GCCF knew our clients were represented by our firm which is simply not true. The firm name and lawyer handling each claim were on each claim form. So it’s impossible for GCCF not to have known the claimants were represented by our firm. I wrote Feinberg on September 13th and let him know that he was wrong about the contacts with our clients. Our job is to make sure our clients are fully and adequately compensated for their losses, both those to date and in the future. That’s exactly what we will do.
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