Three weeks after taking over the BP oil spill claims process, administrator Kenneth Feinberg has failed to pay about 15,000 individuals and businesses whose claims were fully documented and who had already received loss payments from BP.
“Some of that criticism is justifiable because of the time it’s taking to review claims,” said Feinberg, who has been facing angry crowds wherever he goes.
Feinberg’s staff at the Gulf Coast Claims Facility has had to process nearly 15,000 claims with absolutely no documentation, he said. Another 12,000 are “woefully deficient,” lacking in any real proof.
But he says another 15,000 or so should have received a check by now and haven’t.
Mike Lanzone’s experience is typical. The owner of Tomcat Fishing Charters and Custom Vacations in Panama City, Fla., Lanzone was paid $40,000 by BP. He met Feinberg when the Boston lawyer took over the claims process Aug. 23 and promised that he’d have more leeway to pay claims than BP did. Feinberg told him his claim was a “slam dunk,” Lanzone said.
Lanzone is starting to feel like his claim is more of a half-court prayer. He constantly calls the customer-service center in Dublin, Ohio, run by a company called Garden City and gets nothing, other than repeated statements that his claim is “under review.” He sends e-mails to Feinberg and some of his top lieutenants and gets canned responses from the anonymous info@GulfCoastClaimsFacility.com.
“I was approved by BP, which was supposedly more stringent,” Lanzone said. “And BP, when they got stuck, they contacted me and we worked through it. After a couple weeks, we got it covered. I sent in 1,100 pages of documentation. I’m afraid they’re overwhelmed.”
And yet the form letters he gets from Feinberg’s shop suggest he turn in more documents. His few conversations with real humans are mind-numbing.
“I told him I was going to lose my business. The guy said, ‘Can you fax me a letter of eviction.’ I said, ‘No, it’s a boat. They’re going to repo the boat.’ He said, ‘Can you send a letter?’ I said, ‘Don’t you know that when they repo your car they don’t send you a letter? What am I going to send you, an unemployment check?’ ” Lanzone said. “They’re cordial, but they’re clueless.”
Before Feinberg took over the $20 billion spill-claims fund, he promised that individuals would get their money within two days and businesses in a week.