When I heard that BP was complaining about how Ken Feinberg was paying too much money out of the GCCF and was too generous in his payments, I almost fell out of my chair. Then I realized this was just another slick public relations move by the oil giant. BP furnished an early copy of its 25-page complaint to the New York Times so it would receive full favorable coverage prior to any official filing. Anybody who really believes that BP hasn’t benefited from Feinberg’s handling of claims apparently hasn’t filed a claim with the GCCF or dealt with Feinberg.
Feinberg has been working for BP and is nothing more than an extension of the company. BP has spent hundreds of millions on public relations in efforts to convince the American people that the oil spill really wasn’t that bad and that the adverse effects of the spill are just about over. Unfortunately, the further one gets from the Gulf Coast, the less folks know about the tragic consequences of the oil spill, including the massive amounts of chemicals that were pumped into the waters for months. It appears that BP’s public relations efforts have been very effective outside of the areas directly affected by the spill.
Now the oil giant is telling the public that if anything, Mr. Feinberg’s proposed settlements are too generous. The company said the planned payments far exceed the extent of likely future damages because they overstate the potential for future losses. This is posted in a strongly-worded, 25-page document on the fund’s Web site. Basing its estimates on much of the same data Feinberg used, the company concluded that there was “no credible support for adopting an artificially high future loss factor based purely on the inherent degree of uncertainty in predicting the future and on the mere possibility that future harm might occur.” Putting this on the GCCF website is meaningless except for its public relations value.
BP argues in its filing that the Feinberg estimate vastly overstates the likely damage, which it places in the range of just 25% to 50% of Claimants’ 2010 losses. The company noted that almost all of the closed fishing grounds had reopened, and economic recovery in tourism was well underway, with hotel and sales tax revenues in the fall of 2010 similar to those from the same period in the year before.
BP has to believe that this very public disagreement between BP and its own claims administrator will undercut the other major attacks on Feinberg. It’s significant that its filing, while strongly worded, gives no indication that the oil giant plans to intercede in the process it handed off to Feinberg. This latest public relations effort was a slick move by BP and it appears to have worked well the further one gets from the Gulf Coast. Recently, I met with some lawyers in Atlanta and they were all saying that most folks in the Atlanta area believe BP has cured all of the problems caused by the oil spill and has done a good job of taking care of the victims and restoring the beaches. That made me realize how effective BP has been at its public relations efforts and how easily the public forgets in situations like this.
Source: New York Times
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