Feinberg Blames Victims for Shortcomings of Claims Process


Well, BP’s oft-mocked internal report on the Deepwater Horizon disaster suggested workers were to blame, and from that same playbook we see claims czar Kenneth Feinberg starting to blame spill victims for the shortcomings of his claims process. Oh, not directly, but through suggestions that “fraud” is the real reason his claims process is so bogged down.

In an astounding AP story, Mr. Feinberg does what Big Oil does in these situations: Picks an “illegitimate” claim without naming names, then uses that to heap blame upon the entire population of claimants. In this case, the AP reports, Mr. Feinberg notes an unnamed fisherman’s claim for $10 million “on what was obviously a legitimate claim of a few thousand dollars.”

“People can put down on a claims form all sorts of numbers,” Feinberg said.

Well, apparently people can also pay “all sorts of numbers.” But these low-ball payments are actually hurting real people being named on the record. How about these numbers: Sheryl Lindsay, wedding planner, filed for $240,000 for canceled business. BP claims payment to Ms. Lindsay: $7,700. How about fishing guide Mike Garey? He claimed $70,000 in lost income. His BP claim payment was only $21,000.

The obvious question: What is the gap between what’s being requested and what’s being paid? That’s an interesting number, because the BP claims system is deciding that “yes, they deserve money and have adequate documentation for payment,” then somehow deciding on a lower amount. The AP asked that question, and got this: “Claims officials would not provide AP with the total amount actually requested by those claimants. A Feinberg spokeswoman said the number is ‘irrelevant,’ given the volume of claims filed with problems.”

Right. So much for transparency. But what did we expect? Remember, Kenneth Feinberg’s arrogance came through when he told reporters that how much BP is paying him is “between me and BP” – and he’s still refusing to disclose his pay months after telling a congressional hearing that he would do so within “weeks.” Now, apparently, the gap between what’s requested and what’s paid is none of our business.

How long can this continue? And, perhaps more to the point, how does it end?

See report here: http://blog.al.com/wire/2010/10/leader_on_bp_claims_blames_fra.html

© Smith Stag, LLC 2010 – All Rights Reserved

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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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