Oil spill claims: Attorney General Luther Strange calls new criteria opaque


In the two weeks since claims czar Ken Feinberg opened his final claim payment criteria up to public criticism, he has received feedback from some of Alabama’s highest-ranking elected leaders.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Luther Strange offered a response to Feinberg’s criteria, calling it too opaque and limiting.

“Your promises of responsiveness and consideration are not matching the actions of you and your staff,” Strange wrote.

Strange said Feinberg had wrongly denied claims to businesses that were indirectly impacted by the spill and that the claims system was not transparent enough.

“The proposed rules should clearly state what information and documentation the GCCF requires from a claimant at the time a claim is filed,” Strange wrote. “If required documentation is missing from a submitted claim, the GCCF should contact the claimant and request such missing items. Should the GCCF deny an interim or final claim, the claimant must be provided detailed reasons for the denial.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, sent Feinberg a letter, too.

Like Strange, the senator said that claimants that claimants who are denied deserve an explanation.

Though Feinberg has said that he would start making his final claim payment offers later this week or early next week, representatives with his office could not provide payment details Wednesday.

In a hearing on Capitol Hill last month, Shelby asked Feinberg for figures on how many businesses and individuals had been paid in full.

A spokesman with Shelby’s office shared what he said was a response Feinberg made to the senator’s inquiry last month. But that document provided information about how many businesses and individuals had received “quick payments,” not 100 percent of what was requested.

Feinberg had offered $5,000 to individuals and $25,000 to businesses willing to settle with GCCF. Feinberg said he had doled out quick payments to 10,414 individuals and 4,299 businesses.

This week, Shelby wrote the Washington lawyer, concerned that Feinberg had not explained how he determined actual losses.

“The claims methodology is missing several critical elements,” Shelby wrote. “Each Gulf Coast business is unique and there cannot be a one-size-fits-all methodology for determining post-spill losses for the variety of industries affected.”

Strange also told Feinberg he planned to outline his concerns in a filing with U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in the eastern district of Louisiana.

“The GCCF’s standard for causation seems to be constantly evolving — yet never explicitly defined,” the attorney general wrote.

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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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