Well, it’s about time…Ken Feinberg and the GCCF will undergo an independent audit by the end of the year. US Attorney General Eric Holder announced the audit in a letter sent yesterday to Feinberg which reveals the two men held a closed door meeting on July 7th. Apparently at this meeting, Holder told Feinberg of the complaints he heard from claimants while in Mobile, which led to talks of the independent audit.
Many claimants, along with local and national politicians have expressed concerns about the speed, fairness and transparency in the claims process, including Holder, who stated after his talk with Alabama residents on June 30th, “My voice has not been as loud as maybe it should have been. There are issues here, legitimate issues, that have to be discussed. Things have to be done better.” In the letter, Holder both praised the progress made by the GCCF and expressed his concerns regarding its transparency while stating the audit will hold the GCCF, “to the highest standards of efficiency, consistency and customer service. ”
No date has been set for its start, but Holder has advised he doesn’t want the processing and payment of claims interrupted.
Feinberg, in response to the letter wrote, “I welcome Attorney General Holder’s letter and thank him for his supportive words of encouragement. We will do what the Attorney General requests — and it is something we have always considered we would do — regarding an independent audit that will begin this year…”
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, one of the most vocal critics of the GCCF welcomed word of the audit, “It is good news for the people of Alabama that someone other than BP and Kenneth Feinberg will finally be able to peer into the inner-workings of the GCCF.” Feinberg has repeatedly promised the claims process will become more transparent, but has continually failed to improve the transparency with which the GCCF handles claims. “For far too long,” Strange continued, “The GCCF has hidden behind a veil of secrecy when denying compensation to victims of the Gulf oil spill. I applaud this outcome due to the efforts of Attorney General Holder and Alabama’s own local and Congressional leaders, who have refused to back down after constant rejection. The announcement today of an independent audit marks another step forward in making sure that all victims of the spill may at last be treated fairly and promptly.”
Well, this certainly is a turn of events, and surprising to say the least. Holder and Feinberg have a meeting and Holder tells Feinberg how a whole lot of claimants think the GCCF claims process whole lot of sucks, and Feinberg suddenly agrees to an independent audit, saying an audit, “is always something we’ve considered we would do.”
Okay, then perhaps Feinberg might explain how the complaints he heard from Holder were any different from the complaints he heard himself at his many town halls, except for the fact it was now Mr. Holder expressing these complaints. I’d also like to hear him explain how an audit was such an unconscionably stupid idea when Luther Strange spent months suggesting one, but when it is proposed by Mr. Holder, it rapidly becomes something he has always considered. Feinberg has spent the past many months defending himself as the decision maker on GCCF operations, that nobody had any right to impugn his authority, be it BP (ha-ha), Judge Barbier, Claimants, Congress, Gulf Coast Mayors and Governors…essentially anyone paying attention to how something doesn’t seem right with this process.
Previously, according to Feinberg, anyone suggesting claimants weren’t being paid enough, were only getting pennies on the dollar, they were wrong. Questioning the strictness of his documentation requirements? Well, they obviously didn’t see what Feinberg was seeing in the claims. The waiver forms are too encompassing? Wrong. Subsistence claims getting shafted Wrong again, those people so critical of his process simply don’t have the facts and boy, he would love to share the facts, but these things are confidential you know.
And then along comes the US Attorney General, someone who maybe has the authority to do something about Feinberg’s obstinance in the face of all criticism and suddenly: “…and it is something we have always considered we would do…”
This sudden agreement, made behind closed doors makes one wonder…how did those talks really go? Why did Holder suddenly get the keys to the kingdom, something many others have tried and failed to accomplish.
Keeping that in mind…some questions about this audit:
1. How encompassing will this audit be?
2. Over 300,000 claims were denied outright, what will be the process involved in auditing the fairness involved in these denials and/or will they be looked at, at all?
3. When it comes to the federal handling of all things oil spill, honesty has not always been paramount…so how about some state involvement in this audit?
The temptation is to not ask any questions, to just be happy this is finally coming to pass and this might be an understandable response, but it’s also important to understand the parameters involved. Who will be conducting the audit? How long will it take? If examples of unfairness are found, isolated or systemic, what recourse might claimants have who have been found to have been unfairly denied or not paid enough?
Let’s just say…yes, the audit is good news but when it comes to optimism…proceed with caution.
Because, it is a learned caution that makes me wonder why, if the GCCF has been fair, if BP is trying to end all future claims since everyone is so on their way to being made whole…then why am I reading $1.1 million in grants will go to charities aiding families after spill. How is that necessary if Ken and BP are telling the truth?
So even when it comes to the possibility of an independent audit…caution, until the parameters of this audit become known.
Have a nice day.