Claims Czar Admits He’s “Under-Delivered” But Will Anything Change?


It’s not often you get the literal and figurative at exactly the same time, but that’s what happened when claims czar Kenneth Feinberg addressed several hundred people in Orange Beach, Ala., yesterday (Sept. 15). It’s one thing to say “this process is becoming a joke,” but it’s entirely another when it (literally) turns into a punchline before your very eyes.

According to an article by Dan Murtaugh of the Press-Register, this is how it went down in Orange Beach:

Feinberg also had one last promise for the people in the audience. He brought 20 adjusters with him to the meeting. He told people in the crowd that if they met with the adjusters, gave them their claim numbers and made sure all their financial documents were filed, he would make sure their claims were processed faster.

“When will they get their checks?” [a resident asked].

“In a few days,” Feinberg said.

Nearly everyone in the crowd broke out in laughter.

That very human moment aside, nobody actually thinks this is a laughing matter…not by a long shot. And, once again, we notice that lots of people who are getting paid are getting only a tiny fraction of what they are owed. That makes any “Claims Paid” numbers not only meaningless but downright misleading.

Another part of Mr. Murtaugh’s report illustrates that trend: “At the beginning of the meeting, state Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Fairhope, asked everyone in the room to stand up if they had filed a claim. Nearly all of the several hundred in attendance did. Pittman then asked only those who had received payments to remain standing. All but about two dozen sat down. Pittman then asked only those who got everything they asked for to remain standing. All but one sat down.”

Mr. Feinberg did offer one very candid comment to the group: “It is clear to me that I over-promised and under-delivered.”

Well, no kidding. But will anything really change? Not according to Pensacola businessman, Mike Pinzone: “They call him Dr. Feelgood he makes everybody feel good and then he goes away and everybody clapping and applauding and he makes everybody feel good and goes away and he doesn’t do anything that he says.”

Will he encourage victims to seek professional counsel to help them navigate this process? Will he bring on more adjusters to process more claims, more quickly? Will he deputize local community liaisons to facilitate claims processing?

While we appreciate Mr. Feinberg’s new-found candor, we’d greatly prefer real action to get victims the help they need.

See Murtaugh’s article here:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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