Ken Feinberg: Hiring people to answer oil spill claims questions ‘under advisement’


Oil spill claims czar Ken Feinberg said that he has yet to hire people in Gulf Coast states to answer questions on the status of individual claims.

Feinberg had said during a Sept. 15 town hall meeting in Orange Beach that he would undertake such hirings.

He told the Press-Register late last week that the need for hirings was still “under advisement.”

“We’ve been discussing with various individuals and firms in the Gulf Coast how they may play a role in that regard,” he said.

Since the Orange Beach meeting, Feinberg has made drastic changes to his claims operation intended to speed review time and increase the size of payments.

Many elected officials and business leaders have said that the changes improved the process. Still, large numbers of claims remain pending.

One of the most common complaints about Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility is that people can’t get information about their request until the claim is either approved or denied.

Feinberg suggested that people call the facility’s help line at 1-800-916-4893.

Roger Everhart, a Theodore resident who owns a company that sandblasts and paints boats, said he filed his claim in late August and hasn’t gotten a response. He said he called the help line but was told only that his claim was under review.

Feinberg said he believes that the changes he made to hasten the process mean that cases like Everhart’s are the exception.

“That problem has really been addressed,” Feinberg said. “I don’t know how serious that problem is anymore.”

Feinberg also said that he is inclined to offer further interim payments to some claimants, although he has not made a final decision.

Previously, his plan was to provide a round of emergency payments, and then give a final settlement. To accept the final payment, the claimant would have to sign away the rights to sue BP PLC, the majority owner of the well that spawned the Gulf spill.

But people can choose to delay the final settlement process into 2013. Feinberg said that he leans toward allowing interim payments every few months to people who can prove losses, still without any requirement for the claimant to sign away the right to sue BP.

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

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