Alabama attorney general Troy King made a pretty strong claim about the BP oil spill claims administrator. In a news release issued Thursday morning, AG King called out oil spill poster boy Kenneth Feinberg as a henchman for BP. Could this be true? And if so, what does that mean for the claims process?
According to King, Alabamians should proceed with caution in filing BP oil spill claims. He advises residents against joining in the claims process due to the delayed, denied and underpaid claims already coming down the pike. Feinberg, chosen to oversee BP’s payout from a $20 billion purse in the wake of this summer’s spill, may not be a “neutral arbiter” after all. If the Alabama AG is correct, Kenneth Feinberg is raking in more than three-quarters of $1 million a month from the slick oil giant.
As Feinberg was selected to oversee claims associated with the BP spill by President Obama himself, this news could cause significant ripples in an already tenuous political climate. If Feinberg is found to be on the BP payroll, the next question is: could the President have known? If banks are “too big to fail,” is BP too big to be held responsible for the spill?
Feinberg responded to the release by asserting that Troy King’s the one misleading Alabama oil spill victims. As King is advising residents to withhold claims to retain the right to sue later, Feinberg says he could be robbing them of extra money. According to the claims administrator, residents retain the right to sue within 3 years of receiving interim payments for their losses and damages.
Considering the huge number of people affected by the spill and the length of any potential trial, he may be on to something. Whether he’s on BP’s side or not, some BP oil spill victims need restitution now. With the Gulf Coast hit doubly hard by the recession and unemployment rates, many residents may not have time to wait for a lengthy legal process. Attorney general King might have Alabama’s best interests at heart, but advising victims to keep hanging on by a thread instead of rebuilding may not be the best practice.
Feinberg had no response for the claims about his supposed BP payouts, and whether he is a not-so-neutral party in this expensive and far-reaching claims battle after all. Instead, he simply said he’s focused on making sure eligible claims get paid out. If AG King’s claims are correct, “eligible” could be code for “cheap” or “underpaid.” If Kenneth Feinberg is proven to be in bed with BP, this could dismantle the entire claims process and cause BP to come up with extra claims cash.