More on how ’60 Minutes’ whitewashed BP


Earlier this week, I told you how the most important story regarding BP and the Gulf of Mexico — its ongoing degradation of that precious natural resource, from the tar balls that assault our beaches on a daily basis to depleted fish stocks — is getting lost on the BP-manufactured controversy over claims by victims of the 2010 oil spill. BP’s belly-aching reached its largest audience ever on Sunday night, thanks to a widely publicized and promoted segment on CBS’ highly rated news program, “60 Minutes.”

Over the last couple of days, reviews of the “60 Minutes” report have come streaming in, and they are mostly negative. Michael Hiltzik, a columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, has weighed in on the controversy, and I want to share his perspective. Hiltzik argues that the piece watched by millions of viewers last week was heavily slanted in favor of the oil giant.

Here’s a couple of excerpts:

There was a time, years ago, when an investigation by “60 Minutes” meant that the program had delved deeply into claims by a huge oil company that it was being defrauded by a passel of local businesses, done its own research and come to its own conclusions, viewing Big Business’ claims with a gimlet eye. Today’s “60 Minutes” seems more inclined to view the little guy as a born scammer.

Unlike, CBS’ Scott Pelley, Hiltzik digs into the widely available numbers to show that relatively few of the thousands of claims from Gulf residents and small business owners showing economic harm from the recklessness of BP have even been challenged, let alone thrown out. Here’s some of his analysis:

Pelley wore an expression of solicitous dismay at every assertion by BP’s front man, an executive named Geoff Morrell, about fraudulent business claimants. But he didn’t report that the particular cases mentioned by Morrell are the same handful that BP has been trotting out for months in its ads and its publicity sheets. That raises the question of how many cases of amazing fraud there really are. He mentioned that “60 Minutes” called “more than a dozen” supposedly fraudulent claimants, but none agreed to go on camera.

Really? BP claims there are “more than a thousand” such claims, and “60 Minutes” tried to verify about a dozen? This evidence of pure reportorial laziness didn’t stop Pelley from speculating that the claimants refused to be interviewed “because they’re feeling sort of sheepish about receiving that check.”

Pelley didn’t dig too deeply into the hard numbers on the claims program, so here they are. As of today, Settlement Administrator Patrick Juneau has received 288,832 claims. He has approved 68,900 for payments totaling $5 billion. He has denied 54,215. Most of the rest are pending, incomplete or withdrawn. 

Pelley didn’t mention that the claims process has an appeals provision, which BP has bothered to exercise in only 3,943 cases, or less than 6% of all approved claims. If the company really felt inundated by bad claims, wouldn’t it be challenging a lot more of them? What BP is really up to is PR, though to what end isn’t really clear.

Personally, I think the oil giant’s public-relations offensive can be viewed in two ways. A lot of it is exactly what it appears to be, all about the money. While BP remains a highly profitable company, raking in billions in profits, the mess that it created off the coast of Louisiana is cutting into the firm’s bottom line. Isn’t that exactly what’s supposed to happen when a firm is guilty of wanton negligence?

Also, I’ll quickly repeat the point I made the other day. Every story that’s written or aired about BP’s belly aching — about the settlement that its own lawyers negotiated and fought for in open court — is a story that ignores the tar balls, the dead dolphins, the empty shrimp nets, and the rescue workers and their lingering health woes. I think that’s the real purpose of BP’s whining…don’t let them get away with it.

Read the L.A. Times’ Michael Hiltzik’s critique on the “60 Minutes” BP report:

Check out my May 5 blog post on the real story of the BP spill: 

© Smith Stag, LLC 2014 – All Rights Reserved

1 comment

  • BP is the oldest evil corporation created by the industrial age there is. They are more evil than present day people can ever know, or are willing to accept as true.. In this one particular harm of the 2010 oil spill, (small by comparison to the cumulative EVIL they do every year), the BP PLAN is very simple. It is however designed to look confusing on purpose in execution of it. Thus truth to what they seek hides in plain site. BP planned and agreed to pay only what would be tax deductible in those secret negotiations. They estimated about 50 billion in total , max, on this oil spill. they were given a dirty hands agreement by government, one to selling assets now to pay, and collect back later plan in long term pro rated deduction plan . So, Over time, those now fully approved tax deductible expenditures for the Oil spill crimes , would be gradually recouped in the long term loss recovery in prorated amounts every year with IRS. But as BP began to reach that projected max number, TOO early in their minds, they needed to stop payments in order keep from entering into their revenues that would never be recoverable. BP really pays for nothing that is not tax deductible. Nothing, and they never will. In devising this plan, BP knew they could not win any overturn of a agreement THEY themselves drafted. But they decided to get the same effect. To do this BP had to come up with the best arguments they could muster as a basis for any appeal to be filed. SO BP heavily monitored claims going thru for any details that could be distorted to look unethical. They inundated the process by injecting massive confusion and alleging ethical violations upon all the lawyers in it. Hoping the resultant disorganization and reorganizations that resulted would foster all kinds of mistakes in claims. Carefully selecting claims that only LOOK like they were undeserving ,These are not really bad claims, they only need to LOOK like they are by missing facts. . They only have the right aspects to them to LOOK like they are wrong by not telling the complete story of those particular claims. THis was done with great evil in mind as you will see. Now BP had the ammo they needed to file motions and appeals, they surly would lose, but did not care, the real purpose was something else. They RUSE was unleashed. BP sought only to use the ancillary aspects of motions and appeals because filing STOPS all payments. BP knew they can never win the case itself. But they don’t care. They are getting the benefits they want. The payments stopped and claimants intimidated to such a degree they never file. Now BP began to flood the system of adjudication, with every possible legal accusation and ethical violation claim against all manor of people including the Judge. . All taking time and energy from the system, and ALL adding confusion to also try to promote errors. SO why does BP keep trying to fight? Because the benefits of stopping payments is really all they need or want. To do this, they must keep up the ruse , the facade. They must also keep the trickery from being revealed to the world. To do this they explain nothing of their actions, they dont file appeals in the actual claim process, because they need any illusion of bad claims they can get, it would make no sense to help clear them up to BP..and BP certainly does not want to help anyone find out more actual truth about the claims they are complaining about, for it would reveal they are not as bad or wrong as what BP has stated. It could even be discovered BP knew the truth to these claims not being bad as BP says, all along, as BP do know. SO HOW do BP prevent the truth of these claims coming out? ALL these claims are paid with NON disclosure agreements upon the claimants, confidentiality agreements, and even the court, settlement staff are prohibited from talking about. Everyone BUT BP !!!… SO BP can tell any distorted LIE about the claim and even the person or persons or business who received the money CAN NOT explain or deny the allegations. basically BP is using the confidentiality agreements in a very dishonest way, to prevent the truth. They knew it and planned to use them this way ALL ALONG. They know it and further the harm by leveraging off those agreements to continue release FALSE information that can not be refuted. THIS IS one of the many ways BP EVIL works. It is more than a century OLD EVIL corporation, expertise of EVIL from many lifetimes.

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

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