Kenneth Feinberg Billions
Feinberg: Gulf Oil Fund Has Already Paid Out $1.7 Billion
Over a month after the U.S. Justice Department chastised
the Gulf Coast Claims Facility for its slow pace in processing claims stemming from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the fund’s Administrator Kenneth Feinberg said Wednesday they have already meted out $1.7 billion.
The $20 billion fund, established by BP and the federal government to compensate victims of the spill, has already paid claims to about 90,000 people, according to Feinberg. But more than 110,000 claimants submitted no documentation, making it impossible to process their claims, he said.
We’ll work with these claimants and try and get these claims paid as quickly as possible,” Feinberg said during a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Legal Reform Summit.
On Sept. 17, Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli sent Feinberg a sharply worded letter, criticizing the GCCF for the slow rate at which it was processing claims.
“The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill has disrupted the lives of thousands upon thousands of individuals, often cutting off the income on which they depend,” Perrelli wrote in the letter. “Many of these individuals and businesses simply do not have the resources to get by while they await processing by the GCCF.”
Feinberg, who also administered the Sept. 11 Victims Fund, said the process was complex because the majority of the claims deal with economic loss because of business disruption. In contrast, the Sept. 11 fund dealt with relatives who had lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks, he said.
Feinberg described the claims submitted up to this point as mere “skirmishes.” Starting on Nov. 3, victims have three years to file long-term claims against BP; so far, most of the payouts have been for emergency funds.
Claimants submitting long term claims will have several options. Those offered final, lump sum payments for damages will have to give up their right to pursue further litigation. Those unwilling to give up their litigation rights, can receive interim payments while they try to assess the full extent of the damage. Claimants also can reject fund payments altogether and take their claims to court.
In spite of the fund, trial lawyers predict that the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history will almost certainly result in big legal cases.
Feinberg said he respects the work of the plaintiff’s bar but that his mission is to prevent lengthy and costly litigation.
“My challenge is to see if I can develop a program that will compensate claimants in amounts greater than they would likely receive from going to court,” Feinberg said.
Feinberg also addressed concerns that $20 billion set aside by BP would not be enough to compensate all of the spill’s victims. He said he took BP “at their word” when they promised to dedicate more money to fund if turned out to be insufficient.
source: Main Justice