The government-appointed administrator of BP PLC’s $20 billion fund for oil-spill damage said Friday that he would run his own show as he seeks to improve the claims process set up by the company.
“This is a program that has my imprimatur on it, not the administration or BP,” Kenneth Feinberg said at a joint press conference with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. “It is my program as an independent force.”
Mr. Feinberg, who ran the 9/11 claims process and oversaw executive compensation at banks bailed out by the government, was picked by the White House to run the massive escrow account BP agreed to establish on Wednesday. He said his first priority will be to make prompt payments.
“Speed, speed for people in need,” he said, adding that he hopes the first claims can be settled within 30 to 60 days. In the meantime, the fund will continue the monthly emergency interim payments BP has been doling out since May.
Mr. Feinberg said that the British oil giant, which is responsible for the spill that began two months ago, deserves “credit” for setting up a claims program quickly, and that he would seek to improve the “efficiency, the speed and the fairness of that program.” The words were a rare encouragement for the company, which saw its chief executive Tony Hayward undergo aggressive questioning in Congress on Thursday. BP’s inability to stop the spill has angered the public and political leaders alike.
Mr. Feinberg, who is touring the Gulf states, met with Mississippi Gov. Barbour Friday morning and will meet Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal later in the day. In Mississippi, Mr. Feinberg said he would seek to maintain the local infrastructure set up by BP and evaluate whether the three existing claims-processing centers were enough to handle the volume of claims. “I don’t want to reinvent the wheel here in Mississippi, I want to build on what BP has already accomplished,” he said.