The lead attorneys for individuals and businesses suing BP over last year’s Gulf oil spill have asked Judge Carl Barbier to appoint a special master to oversee the claims process. It was stated in a court filing that administrator Kenneth Feinberg has been too slow to process interim payments from the $20 billion fund that BP set up. The payments are meant to help victims get by until their claims are settled. BP and Feinberg have benefited because many victims desperate for financial help chose quick, one-time payments in exchange for promises not to sue. That was BP’s goal from the beginning.
The Justice Department announced in late July that an independent audit would be done to determine if claims are being processed appropriately. Feinberg, responding in a statement emailed to The Associated Press, said that the GCCF has made interim payments to more than 20,000 claimants and that there are more than 40,000 final payment offers outstanding. He claimed some $250 million in interim payments have been made. What he didn’t say is that he has taken advantage of victims who have lost their business and their jobs and badly needed help.
The claims process has been beset by red tape and delay. At the center of it all has been a fund administrator whose ties to BP have raised legitimate questions about his independence. As of July 25th, only $4.8 billion of the $20 billion had been paid out to 199,248 claimants. Feinberg has insisted he was being fair and is blaming the fund’s problems on “inflated and outlandish claim requests.” More than a year has passed since the disaster and a tremendous number of complaints about the process continue. Even BP has claimed repeatedly that it believes the payouts have been “too generous” and has asked Feinberg to scale things back. Hopefully, Judge Barbier will appoint a competent special master because an appointment of this sort is badly needed.
Source: Associated Press
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