Lawyers to Feinberg: Stop Bad-Mouthing Us
Washington attorney Kenneth Feinberg hasn’t exactly endeared himself to many people in the Gulf in the messy process of sorting out who is owed what from the BP oil spill.
Feinberg is in charge of paying claims from BP’s $20 billion pot of money to restaurant owners, shrimpers, hoteliers and the like who were hurt by the spill.
Attorneys general, mayors and pizza parlor owners have been among his critics.
They complain they haven’t been paid quickly enough, that his process isn’t transparent and that he’s over-promised and under-delivered. Two fishermen represented by attorney Joe Rice released a statement Wednesday entitled, “How BP, The Gulf Coast Claims Facility and Ken Feinberg Stole Christmas.” (Link not available)
Now, let’s be clear, Feinberg has an incredibly difficult job in trying to put a dollar figure on past and future losses affected by the spill from myriad types of industries. He’s listened and responded to complaints, and has won some critics over.
The one industry that’s still most up in arms over his actions: the plaintiffs’ bar. After all, the attorneys may have the most to lose.
If potential clients turn to Feinberg’s fund instead of to the massive multi-district litigation playing out in a federal courtroom in Louisiana, they could lose many millions of dollars in fees and the chance to set the agenda for how BP is punished civilly for its actions.
Attorneys have complained that Feinberg has been bad-mouthing them throughout the Gulf, telling residents litigation will take years to play out and that he’ll give them more money than they’d get through a lawsuit. The coup de grace: he recently announced he’d give them a lawyer for free.
On Tuesday, attorneys took their complaints to the judge. In a filing before federal judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, attorneys asked the judge to intervene and make sure Feinberg’s comments “are neither confusing nor misleading.” Click here for the motion, here for the memorandum in support of the motion.
Among their complaints: Feinberg, who is being paid by BP $850,000 a month, isn’t independent though he claims to be and that he has flat-out told residents not to hire attorneys.
It’s unclear what authority Barbier will say he has over Feinberg to measure his words so we’re anxious to see BP’s response and Barbier’s ruling.
Feinberg didn’t immediately return a request for comment but we’ll update if he does.