Realtors Bypass Feinberg Fund


For fishermen and everyone else awaiting payment from Kenneth Feinberg’s new Gulf Coast Claims Facility, now through its second week of operation, the massive and speedy payouts to Realtors may offer a new strategy: Get exempted from the fund, get your own pool of cash and hire your own administrators to make payouts.

Reporter Anita Lee at the Sun Herald in Mississippi, who should be working for Anderson Cooper’s “Keeping Them Honest” segment, is reporting this weekend that payouts through the separate Realtors fund, which is “overseen” by Mr. Feinberg but uses its own third-party adjuster firm, is rivaling that of the rest of the GCCF.

Some context: This story follows Lee reporting on widespread frustrations surrounding the GCCF, including just this week, accounts from a professional fisherman afraid to be identified by name for fear of BP-based retaliation. We have seen this again and again: A culture of intimidation amid slow payments – and the Realtors get their own fund? This, my friends, is what a sustained lobbying presence in Washington gets for you. And remember, this all came about after Mr. Feinberg made public comments questioning if real estate brokers and agents should get any money at all.

Of $73 million paid out as of last Thursday, the Sun Herald tells us, 47.2 percent was through the real estate fund. The payout breakdown: $16 million in Florida, $15 million in Alabama, $2 million in Louisiana and $1.5 million in Mississippi. Texas had no documented claims from real estate professionals, a Feinberg representative told the newspaper.

Malcolm Young, CEO of the Louisiana Association of Realtors, said the rules are “very similar” to the ones governing the rest of the money. But Young also said: “… the rules and the protocol had to be approved by Feinberg. We thought it would be better for us to work as a group. He’s been a great man to work with. He also wants to make sure it’s airtight and there’s no fraud involved in this. Having a third-party claims group has been most helpful. They process them quickly.”

The special Realtor carve-out fund was reportedly $60 million. Anyone think they’ll come back for more after the success of this effort?

Meanwhile, the Lee story reports that: “Numerous Mississippi Coast businesses and fishermen said they are disappointed and frustrated because they have received no response from GCCF almost two weeks into the process. All they can find out is the claims are either submitted or pending. Feinberg had promised his payments would be faster than BP’s and claimants could track their progress.”

Well, it’s certainly been faster for the real estate industry!

More from the Sun Herald: “Numerous individuals and business owners have told the Sun Herald they supplied the needed documents. One attorney who said her 15 clients submitted complete records and, in some cases, had already established their payment amounts with BP. The attorney, Judy Guice of Biloxi, was still waiting Friday for her clients to be paid.”

Follow Ms. Lee’s coverage at:

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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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