Oil spill claims coming faster than Feinberg can process


Oil spill claims payments to individuals and businesses from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility topped $100 million Friday, but the number of open claims grew to nearly 38,000, as new submissions came in faster than workers could process them.

The independent claims operation, administered by Ken Feinberg, on Aug. 23 officially began paying individuals and businesses from a $20 billion fund set up by BP PLC.

BP had paid out about $398 million by the time the transfer occurred, but had received criticism for slow payments and difficult documentation requirements.

Feinberg’s operation was able to process about 700 claims on Friday, making a total of 13,462 approved since it took over from BP PLC. A total of 51,331 emergency claims have been submitted.

At total of $102.6 million had been paid out as of Friday night. The payment averages, as of Friday, were about $6,000 per individual and $13,900 per business.

That money is classified as emergency payments. On Nov. 23, Feinberg will begin to make final offers based on what he thinks will be a claimant’s total economic loss from the spill. Individuals and businesses will have to sign away their rights to sue BP if they accept the offers.

Feinberg was also in the news Friday because of his other high-level task as executive pay czar. He was tabbed by President Barack Obama in June 2009 to set pay guidelines for top executives at companies that received exceptional assistance from government bailouts.

On Friday, Feinberg stepped down from that post, and Obama replaced him with Treasury Department lawyer Patricia Geoghegan. She will be responsible for the four companies still under the government’s jurisdiction: American International Group, General Motors, Chrysler and Ally Financial Inc.

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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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