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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 BP-Claims-Report.com 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.

President Obama Gets $20 Billion Escrow Fund From BP

The oil spill claims process may improve after the announcement today that BP will deposit $20 billion into an escrow fund to pay people who have been financially damaged by the Gulf oil spill. The establishment of the escrow fund was announced after BP’s Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, CEO Tony Hayward, and other company executives met with President Obama and other administration officials. The White House blog gives an account of the meeting. We’ve got a more in-depth look at the BP oil spill escrow fund at BPOilNews.com.

Oil Spill Suggestion for President Obama: A New Deal for the Gulf of Mexico

We’ve posted an oil spill suggestion for the President at BPOilNews.com. We believe it’s time for a New Deal for the Gulf Coast. We believe the U.S. and BP have divergent interests when it comes to cleaning up the oil spill. BP’s interest is in holding down the costs. The U.S. has an interest in protecting the ecosystem and protecting the health and financial well-being of gulf coast residents and businesses. And the fines and damages from BP should pay most or all of the costs.

I first made this oil spill suggestion on May 28, 2010. Take a look at the suggestion and share your opinion by leaving a comment.

Oil Spill Pictures and the Media Blackout

BP’s media blockade, oil spill pictures, and the First Amendment – Has the First Amendment been repealed?

We’ve got a new post at BPOilNews.com on oil spill pictures and the media blackout. Unfortunately there is a very public record going back several weeks of BP’s efforts to prevent the media from photographing the wildlife affected by the oil spill. An even more unfortunate aspect of the blackout is that it has been enforced by the U.S. Coast guard, federal wildlife officials, and local sheriffs’ deputies, as well as BP contractors and employees. There are several examples of flagrant violations of First Amendment rights, and the sole beneficiary of the blockade is British Petroleum.  We’ve called on President Obama to tell government officials not to allow citizens (including the press) to be blocked from public property. On a more practical level, we’ve suggested that Gulf Coast residents do what Iranians did when faced with a media blackout of anti-government demonstrations: use Twitter and other social media to document the effects of the oil spill.

Here’s an example of the oil spill pictures that British Petroleum does not want you to see. After watching the video, there’s no question in my mind that BP has good reason to try to keep this off television and the Internet. The real question is whether we will allow them to succeed.

Go to BPOilNews.com to see oil spill pictures that BP doesn’t want you to see.

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