Posts Tagged ‘claims process’
When Ken Feinberg took over administration of BP’s $20 billion dollar fund, he stated many, many times one of his primary objectives was to keep people out of the court system…ahhhh yes, do you remember those halcyon days, back when the Macondo well had just been capped, when hope was beginning to spring eternal and Feinberg dove into the scene, promising claims offers bigger than any the court would ever consider?
It seemed in those days the only way a claimant could screw it up would be to commit the ultimate blasphemy…filing the lawsuit. And why do that?
No need, just fill out your paperwork, get to planning, get to fixing up your boats and cleaning and soon…you and the banks would be all good…
Feinberg was here, the overseer of your oil spill lottery! Lawsuits were for posers!
The second spill hit the Gulf Coast, the paper one created by creditors and banks issuing warnings, letters of non-payment, demands for their money, the money Feinberg wasn’t giving out because he was demanding more paperwork, more documentation, more, more, more and…denied!
Or maybe you took the quick pay, just to be done with the bastards…
Let it begin or should I say, continue…off to the courts!
“More than 100 people and businesses have filed a new lawsuit against BP, saying the company’s Gulf oil spill damaged their livelihoods. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans on behalf of 122 plaintiffs, most from Terrebonne Parish. Since the Claims Facility was set up, there have been constant complaints from claimants of lost paperwork, slow processing times and low-ball payments…and creditors and banks have been demanding money fishermen and others haven’t been able to pay.
“Kenneth Feinberg does not want to pay for future damages,” Hutchinson (plaintiff attorney) said. “If you’re a fisherman who lost his entire income in 2010, it’s difficult to settle your claim for $25,000. It’s an insult.””
Hmm…I suppose whether it was an insult would depend completely on perspective…from what I keep reading, British Petroleum is back in the black, Ken Feinberg is raking in the money and even Nalco, makers of Corexit are doing pretty damned good…in fact, it would seem all the companies involved in damaging lives throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are doing just fine indeed…even Halliburton?
Maybe Feinberg has had a secret agenda all along.
Maybe he realized early on how he’d be unable to keep as many from the court system as he wanted, as his bosses at BP hoped…in fact, wait a minute, maybe Ken Feinberg has been a secret spy, a double agent from the get-go… maybe he figured along with making a ton of money for himself, he could finally do something about unemployment along the Gulf Coast…that harsh unemployment rate for lawyers.
Well, well, well…birds of a feather…
In any case, here’s betting Hutchinson won’t be the last attorney to file suit against BP as a result of Feinberg’s system…the GCCF’s meager payouts and problematic lack of transparency almost ensure it.
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So sayeth the self-celebrated:
“I am constantly pressured to do the right thing,” Feinberg said. “You know, the shrimpers, the crabbers, the oystermen and the GCCF, they all say we need to do more, and that they are still at risk. On the other hand, I get correspondence from BP, saying you should not give two times, or four times. In fact they say that two times is too much, the Gulf has recovered. So I get pressure from both every side. I do what I think is right.”
It’s gotta be hard to be Ken Feinberg, living in the middle like that…the fishermen saying he hasn’t done enough, the evil oil corporation who says he has done too much…so very difficult…I almost feel bad, like I should invite him down to Flanagans on St. Phillips, do my social work thing, listen, empathize…and then of course, dump my beer all over his head, kick him off the bar stool and then, standing over him, remind him how he has turned this whole “neutral arbitrator” schtick into a multimillion dollar business…the agent orange fund, the 9-11 fund…etc…and while he is going on and on about how hard it is to wear his shoes, I’d remind him how he put them on, and how they’re some of the most expensive shoes money can buy, and how the people his decisions affect have lost quite a bit more than a few hours sleep so sorry, tell it walking, tell it to the MSM who oftentimes feel content to give him a pass because he is at least paying something unlike the Road Home Program…
Yeah, a celebration of mediocrity…perfect.
Oh, and Ken would just like to add:
Feinberg emphasized that anyone who so wishes, can still seek interim payments from the Gulf Coast Claims facility, and not accept any final payment.
To which a observor such as myself might respond:
Yeah, and you can go buy lottery tickets too.
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Two competing articles published a day apart have a very different take on the safety of Gulf Seafood…
In the first, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries report that not one bit, smidgen or iota of toxic chemicals has ever been found in Gulf Seafood and therefore the seafood is safe to eat, while in the second article, though first quoting the FDA’s website which reports the seafood “is as safe to eat as before the spill,” (a whole ‘nother can of worms), the article goes on to quote Louisiana fishermen and NRDC scientist Gina Solomon who seriously dispute the government’s findings.
Or…in other words, what’s your agenda?
Says the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries:
“The testing protocol, the first of its kind, analyzes water and seafood samples for pollutants found in the spilled oil and in various chemicals applied to disperse the oil. So far, no contaminants have been detected in any piece of seafood tested since the spill…”
Says the FDA:
“The seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is safe to consume for all consumers including pregnant women and children,” he asserts before adding, “The amount of seafood that somebody would have to eat would be the equivalent to sixty-three pounds of shrimp, or five pounds of oyster, or nine pounds of fin fish every day for five years before they would exceed levels to be concerned of. That’s how low the residues are in the seafood.”
Says Gina Solomon:
FDA only examined what would be safe for an adult. When they did their calculations they looked at what level of contamination would be safe for a 176 pound person. Children are known to be more vulnerable to contaminants in seafood because they eat more per pound of their bodyweight and their developing bodies are more sensitive to harmful contaminants. What’s more, in a pregnant woman, these contaminants can cross the placenta and harm the developing fetus. This increased vulnerability is well-known to science, and other agencies require that children be included in safety assessments.
Meanwhile, fishermen in the region continue to wonder aloud how the seafood can be safe when the shrimp seasons this year were so bad, with very little to catch, not to mention the state of the seafood they are catching:
“Fisherman are bringing in shrimp without any eyes … they evidently have lost their eyes and they’re still alive.”
So, who’s right?
Who do you want to believe?
Would seem to me that’s a personal decision…but if someone were to ask me, and I assume if you’re still reading this, you are…I might be more willing to bet my health on local fishermen and the NRDC, for a number of reasons:
Barack Obama will only benefit from clean bills of health when it comes to the Gulf. Many voters have placed the Gulf response at his feet and if this response is seen as ineffective, that affects him and his re-election chances. British Petroleum donates a great deal of money to Obama and are in bed with his administration as they begin to receive new leases for deep-sea drilling. The oil company would also love to see the perception of safe seafood begin to take hold so they can stop compensating fishermen. The state of Louisiana wants all to be well because it is their citizens being harmed by the bad reputation of Gulf seafood, a reputation that continues to be voiced outside of the Gulf Coast. Local fishermen, on the other hand, why the hell would they want to be quoted as saying something is wrong with the seafood if they didn’t believe it to be true? Feinberg and the GCCF have been short-changing everybody, livelihoods and whole ways of life are being impacted. Fishermen receive no benefit from ongoing bad perceptions whereas the NRDC, not beholden to the government or corporate sponsorship gains nothing from questioning the thoroughness of government testing or the claims of government agencies.
Oh…and the even worse problem?
Corporations and the United States Government have a long history of placing political perception and financial bottom lines over the health and welfare of their consumers and citizens and as a result, skepticism of their claims are automatic to almost anybody but the true believer. It is this distrust, born of their bad behavioral patterns that necessitates doubt of their claims…and it shouldn’t have had to be this way; it didn’t have to be this way…
But, it is…and who the hell wants to eat an eyeless shrimp?
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Jim Hood, Mississippi Attorney General, has finally prevailed over Ken Feinberg.
It was back in February when Hood filed a subpoena against Ken and the GCCF, requesting to see the records of claimants who had given their permission for such a review, and it was a subpoena Feinberg at first ignored, then denied and fought, arguing its validity should be heard in court, but not in a Mississippi courtroom, it should be heard in a Federal Court.
US District Judge Carlton Reeves said nahhhh; he dismissed Feinberg’s request for a stay, which would have stopped all proceedings until it was decided whether the subpoena should be included in the MDL proceedings in Barbier’s Court in New Orleans.
“Until a transfer to a (MDL) has become final, a district court’s jurisdiction over pretrial matters is in no way impeded,” Reeves said. “And when a litigant improperly removes a case, the limited jurisdiction of federal courts is impermissibly invoked, resulting in an undue delay of a state court’s rightful duty to address a case’s merits.”
So back to Hinds County Chancery Court court we go…the court where Hood filed his suit against the GCCF back in July because of Feinberg’s unwillingness to respond.
“We have maintained all along that this issue belonged in a state court since we brought it under state law, and we are obviously pleased that the judge agreed with us,” Hood said in a press release. “We would hope that the GCCF and Mr. Feinberg could just do the right thing by the law and comply with our subpoena.”
Hmm…I’m thinking uh, well, good luck with that…
“If the GCCF has nothing to hide, why have they gone to such efforts to avoid compliance?” asks Hood. “We intend to find out.”
I sure hope so, because waiting for this independent federal audit promised by US Attorney General Eric Holder is really getting to be a drag…
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Back in August, US District Court Judge Carl Barbier issued a ruling allowing for claimants in the B1 Bundle to sue British Petroleum for punitive damages, a ruling BP appealed.
“I have given this a lot of thought,” Barbier said about BP’s appeal at the end of last week…
The B1 bundle includes all claims for private or “nongovernmental economic loss and property damages…” meaning claims for economic damages filed by fishermen, seafood processors and distributors, recreational and commercial businesses, plant and dock workers and those who worked for BP’s Vessels of Opportunity program.
British Petroleum attorney Andrew Lanagan seemed to suggest that by kicking these claims out of the litigation, Barbier would only be doing these claimants a favor, “We still have the GCCF [Gulf Coast Claims Facility] in place. If these claims are all eliminated from litigation, litigants will have no option but to go through the GCCF.”
Yes, through the GCCF, where claimants can’t receive compensation for punitive damages, where they are getting shafted by low compensation offers, where they’re claims are often dismissed outright by Ken Feinberg’s process.
You know, that place where British Petroleum can exact a certain amount of control, unlike Barbier’s Courtroom.
In defending the plaintiff’s right to not have their cases dismissed on appeal before they even had a chance to be heard, Elizabeth Cabraser, the plaintiff’s attorney, argued, “The law, like time, does not flow backwards.”
And this must have come as news to British Petroleum, who in the past week has not only announced what CEO Bob Dudley called a “turning point” in its profits for the third quarter, but they have also received permission to resume deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico from the Interior Department.
Yes, if it weren’t for Barbier’s ruling, it might seem like March of 2010, all over again…
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On Wednesday, Ken Feinberg attended a meeting in Jefferson Parish where local fishermen, oystermen, shrimpers and crabbers weren’t as celebratory of his efforts with the GCCF as the law students were when he recently spoke in Ireland.
Harlon Pearce, owner of LA Fish & Seafood asked, “How do we go out and market this product, when we’re worried about having a product to market?”
This is becoming quite the valid question.
For the past couple of weeks, reports have been coming in to shore fast and furious about the lack of shrimp catch, “I am talking to the guys, I am talking to the docks, and they are telling me that they are 80 percent off,” said Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, “We should have had a good year this year.” Carol Terrebonne, who runs the Seafood Shed, a seafood wholesaler in Golden Meadow, agreed, “Usually at this time of the year, we are loading trailer loads,” Terrebonne said, “It’s just not happening.”
Dean Blanchard, a third generation shrimper who owns a processing plant in Grand Isle is being forced to close because far fewer shrimp are coming into the plant this season and some of the shrimp are showing signs of contamination. Blanchard says he is seeing first hand how the oil and dispersants are causing the wildlife and people to get sick, “We’re seeing dead porpoises, we’re seeing shrimp with no eyes that’s still alive, we’re seeing fish with tumors the size of golf balls in them, we’re seeing fish with oil all over the gills…it’s hard for me to think that everything is going to be alright.”
And back in the meeting at Jefferson Parish, Ken Feinberg stated the obvious, saying that the problems on the Gulf Coast go deeper than issues with his claims process, “There are fishermen in there complaining that though they’ve heard from the GCCF, they don’t like the news they’ve heard — about deficiencies, delays, denials — and that’s what we have to deal with.”
Yes, you do…because though the problems go deeper, the environmental concerns and your claims process are linked.
The GCCF was intended to make things whole for the people of the Gulf Coast, including the fishermen. If they can’t bring product to market, the claims process must address this and fill in the financial gaps until they are again able to do so. That was the whole point of the escrow account, to financially resolve damages caused by this oil spill…well, those damages are ongoing.
Some ideas to come out of this meeting that could help are:
1) There is a proposed separation of claims coming out of the so-called oil spill “Ground Zero” in Louisiana, mainly for those involved in fisheries in Lafitte, Grand Isle and Venice.
2) The setting up of a “Claims Day” in Jefferson Parish, where payment complaints could be handled.
3) A potential change in how the claims are processed and calculated.
And number three would seem to be the most important. If the estimates and calculations for the GCCF claims process are indeed wrong as the ongoing environmental problems would indicate, then those calculations need to be changed.
Also, the interim claims process need to be expanded. Claimants, especially those who make a living from the environment, from the seafood industry who previously accepted final and quick payments and now want to re-apply should be allowed to do so, given amnesty, given another chance as the science keeps rolling in. To say tough luck, shouldn’t have signed away your rights and taken those offers, who does this serve? British Petroleum, yes, but certainly not justice. In addition, the GCCF needs to stop pressuring people into taking final claims, and that goes straight to the top, to Feinberg who has publicly stated that at some point, people need to move on.
If the fishermen have nothing to catch, how are they supposed to do that?
The worst part of all this?
For some it might already be too late, “I don’t even need [Feinberg] to pay me,” Blanchard said of his now closed processing business, “If he could just pay the fishermen, so they quit asking for credit, I would consider staying open.”
Feinberg needs to be reminded this isn’t about British Petroleum, nor is it about what’s easiest and best for the GCCF, it is about the people of the Gulf Coast and if they are still losing money due to environmental damages, if businesses are still closing down as a result of this oil spill, then the GCCF is not doing their job, which means Ken needs to go back to the drawing board and make right these problems and the people once and for all.
Supposedly, this is why he was hired.
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Ken Feinberg recently visited Dublin as part of the US-Ireland Alliance where he gave a talk to Trinity College law students, and then an interview to the Irish Times. During both engagements, he spoke of the cottage industry he has established as a mediator for a variety of compensation funds, including his role with the GCCF.
When discussing his role in the Gulf, Ken said, “In 13 months I received one million claims from all 50 states and 37 foreign countries…when BP said it was putting up $20 billion, it engendered a lot of very creative claims.”
Good one Ken, yes, “creative claims.”
Very nice, because obviously people from all over the world were trying to play the British Petroleum lottery, trying their best to fool Feinberg and get their fraudulent hands on all that BP money…but how many fraudulent claims did you actually refer to the Justice Department for investigation? A few thousand, out of over a million filed…yes Ken, very good joke, I’m sure much laughter was had as you misrepresented the integrity of those who filed claims, of those so affected by the largest environmental disaster in the United States.
And during his interview, Feinberg was asked, “Was there an element of compulsion in accepting the compensation, as people have to waive their right to sue when the full extent of the damage may not yet be known?”
Good question, very good…
To which Ken replied, “No one is required to accept a final settlement…if anyone feels the future is uncertain, they can opt for an interim payment and keep coming back until they are comfortable about the future; 25,000 people took that option.”
Okay, but taking a look at the most recent GCCF statistics, whereas you are correct Ken, approximately 29,0000 people have accepted interim payments, you again misrepresented this situation entirely. What you failed to mention is the GCCF has received over 100,000 interim claims, yet two out of every three claimants haven’t been paid.
Why is that?
Did they not qualify?
Were the offered payments so low, they instead took the final payment you also offered, out of frustration?
Are they maybe just still waiting to hear from you, after all the interim payments were the last to be processed, right Ken? Or maybe it had something to do with your continued statements about the Gulf so rapidly improving, people might not be happy down the line with final offers, or when you said there comes a time, that people just have to move on…perhaps if there were transparency in the GCCF process, we might have the answers to these question, but alas, there is not.
Now Ken, don’t get me wrong.
I don’t actually expect you to go to Ireland and talk about what a horrible job you’ve done as arbitrator for the BP compensation fund. I mean, who would do that? But, I also would expect you to not make light of the still terrible situation in the Gulf, or misrepresent claimants and facts, or make things appear better than they are… And now that I think about it, I really wouldn’t expect you to be in Ireland in the first place, haven’t you heard? They’re discovering some real alarming things going on in the Gulf environmentally that would seem to make an impact on not only the seafood catch, but the health of Gulf Coast residents and in turn, impact your calculations for your payment methodology…you know, the one you said was an estimate and could be changed down the line as new facts come in…
Whereas I am sure the people in Ireland love ya a lot more than the people of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, so as I would certainly imagine it’d be more fun for you to be over there rather than in the Gulf…the people in Ireland? Well, they aren’t still waiting for you to finish doing your job.
So what do you say, maybe you should get back to work? After all, you are getting paid a hell of a lot of money, right?
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