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Gulf Coast Claims Facility and the Feinberg Pledge


Is Kenneth Feinberg’s credibility as administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility totally shot? If it isn’t, it should be.

I’ve got a post on the blog with a video of Feinberg addressing a meeting of Gulf oil spill victims in Larose, Louisiana in June 2010. Feinberg made a lot of promises, but the most appalling thing about the video was his emphatic “pledge” to the people of Larose. You can read the entire post here: BP Claims Czar Kenneth Feinberg – Promises Made to be Broken.

The Feinberg Pledge came after almost 5 minutes of telling desperate people that he was going to tell them exactly how the program would work. He said they deserved to know. Here are some of the things Feinberg said:

  • “A program like this cannot be designed or administered from Washington.”
  • “You guys need certainty. Let me tell you the plan.”
  • “I am not a government official. I am not a BP official.”
  • “I will keep the people that are already working on this program. I will add additional people. But the additional people I add must come from the region. They’ve got to be people, they have to be local people that are trusted, that know their neighbors, that understand better than I ever could exactly what the needs and wants are of the people in the locale.”
  • “I have to make sure that the people on the ground that are evaluating the claims are local, diverse, understand, and are sensitive to those needs. I pledge I will do that.

But these things aren’t true. In a September 16, 2010 article, Feinberg admitted he has hired no local employees. The only employees he has hired is 25 people in his Washington, D.C. office. These employees have final approval over all claims, which sounds a whole lot like a program being administered in Washington, D.C. Here’s what the interview with Feinberg revealed:

  • “The last stop on the claims process is in Washington, D.C.,” Feinberg said. “All claims must go through this hub to ensure consistency. There are 25 employees in my office reviewing and finalizing claims.”
  • If anything, Feinberg said that he would decrease the number of adjusters he has working in the Gulf as the volume of claims eases.

One can argue that Feinberg’s broken promises about paying claims within 48 were the result of underestimating the difficulty of the job. (I don’t buy this for reasons I will explain later in another post). But Feinberg didn’t unintentionally break his pledge. It’s sad that his pledge is worthless. It’s even sadder that he seems to have no sense of shame about it.

As someone who posted a hopeful article after the $20 billion fund was created and Feinberg was appointed administrator, I wanted to believe that Feinberg would actually be a blessing to people on the Gulf. But I believe it’s become obvious that’s not going to happen. At this point, I think it’s reasonable for Gulf residents to view Kenneth Feinberg as an adversary.

If you filed a BP claim with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, you can share your experiences and opinions on our BP Claims Report Card and the Kenneth Feinberg Confidence Survey. You can also express your opinions on our BP Claims Help Facebook page.

About Michael J. Evans

Michael J. Evans is a personal injury lawyer who represents people with claims involving defective medicine or medical devices, other defective products that cause serious injury or death, and environmental cases. Evans also handles whistleblower lawsuits in which employees, or former employees, expose fraud or other illegal conduct by the corporation for which they work(ed), Evans organizes litigation groups of plaintiffs law firms to work with him on these cases nationwide. Evans uses social media, blogs, online video, mobile apps and traditional media to connect with clients, and help other prominent law firms connect with clients.. Evans is also an advocate for the rights of consumers. His primary areas of legal practice are mass torts, and advising law firms on the ethical rules and law governing legal marketing via the Internet and social media.

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