Oil spill fund administrator to face more questions from Congress


Kenneth Feinberg knew when he agreed to serve as administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, in charge of sorting out the claims of those adversely affected by the BP oil spill, that he would be occupying a hot seat.

On Thursday, seven months after he took the job, Feinberg will be back on Capitol Hill to answer what will undoubtedly be some aggressive questioning about his tenure from the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery, chaired by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

And, by way of setting the tone for the week, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, sent Feinberg a letter criticizing his performance and demanding more information on claims and payments made to date. He also questioned the proposed transfer of 150 local claims processors from the Gulf region.

“I am surprised at the news that GCCF is considering eliminating about 150 jobs at the Hammond claims processing facility, especially at a time when you have repeatedly pointed to the importance of hiring additional local personnel,” Scalise wrote Feinberg in his letter. “This move would run counter to your previous commitments, and would make it harder to get quick answers to claimants who have questions.”

More broadly, Scalise writes, “the GCCF’s opaque nature detracts from its credibility and adds to claimants’ frustration as they try to understand why their claim was denied or underpaid.”

In his letter, Scalise asked Feinberg to provide the following:

  1. All metrics on claims and payments, including the total number of both submitted and paid claims, broken down by state, city, industry, and job classification, and the average payment to individuals and businesses in each category;
  2. The formula for how payments are calculated;
  3. The total number of people employed by GCCF and working on its behalf at affiliate entities, broken down by specific geographic location and employer;
  4. Any job transfers or lay-offs in claims processing that GCCF has executed or is planning to execute, including justification for such moves.
  5. Specific information and documentation on the decisions leading to the removal of 150 jobs at the Hammond claims processing facility, including where those jobs are being transferred; and
  6. The number of unprocessed six-month emergency claims and justification for why these claims remain unresolved.

Amy Weiss, a spokeswoman for Feinberg, said “Mr. Feinberg will respond to Congressman Scalise’s letter.”

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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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