“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.
He took a look at the poor harvest this season of shrimp and crab from the Gulf of Mexico and decided something needed to be done, that more compensation was necessary as the damages from this oil spill were greater than he had originally estimated…
And he was right in this assessment, and to fix it he will increase the compensation rates for shrimpers and crabbers to four times the amount of their losses in 2010. Great! Wonderful! Certainly a responsible move and I, who have criticized Ken all this time, let me be the first to say perhaps I was wrong, wrong about him being inflexible, maybe even wrong about…er, what?
What do you mean it only applies to those who haven’t accepted a final payment yet?
Well, that doesn’t make any sense…
It’s not like those who’ve already been compensated are any less damaged, that they don’t also need this payment adjustment… I mean, they’re fishing the same waters, they’re experiencing the same depleted catches, the horrible market prices, the questions about their future…
“Feinberg…said he is unwilling to reopen claims or change the terms of already signed releases…”
Oh for fuck’s sake…
Okay, so to those estimated 1000 shrimpers and crabbers who have yet to accept a final offer?
But to those 4000 claimants who have already accepted final payment from the GCCF, receiving half of what Feinberg’s now paying to people in their same situation?
I guess you shouldn’t have listened to him first time around…Yeah, when he told you the final payment offer he sent you was all you were going to get? Not true…or in other words, a lie. When you applied for your interim payment, and along with the interim offer, he sent you a final payment offer for shits and giggles, suggesting that offer was as good as it was going to get?
When he spoke aloud to the press, suggesting that claimants should just move on with their lives, and in the near future he might see fit to decrease the amount of his final payment offers?
When he said the Gulf was rapidly improving, that all would be well by 2013?
Another lie, or…wait a minute, maybe Ken was just wrong? Interesting. Okay…so Ken is either a liar or he’s wrong. Well then, here would appear to be the choices:
If Ken is in fact a liar and a fraud, then he will remain so unless he agrees to retroactively pay the 4000 people who make their living from shrimp and crab, who unfortunately took him at his word when he made them a final offer and now are cheated out of half what they would’ve been paid had they not.
Ken isn’t a liar and a fraud, he was just wrong about the science, that same science he based his entire methodology around, and if that’s the case, then not only should he still retroactively pay those 4000 claimants, but he needs to revisit his entire methodology and see who else might have been screwed by his poor environmental estimations…other fishermen, in fact…maybe the entire 300,000 plus claimants he just flat out denied in the first place, review their claims too just to make sure…
Course, if he doesn’t want to go to that kind of trouble, he can just admit he’s a liar who is currently cheating 4000 people out of their fair due, and assuming this is his preferable option, how is cheating people right, moral, ethical or fair at all?
It’s help at a late date for a few and a backhanded slap for the many, hardly complimentary.
The GCCF and Ken Feinberg have never been about doing the right thing, and this latest move is just one more demonstration…or in other words…hey, when is that federal audit supposed to happen again?
For someone who claims his GCCF process has been “vindicated,” Ken Feinberg is really going through the legal maneuvers to make sure Jim Hood, Attorney General of Mississippi, can’t get a look behind his curtain.
The lawsuit, originally filed in Hinds County Chancery Court, came when Mr. Hood asked Feinberg to turn over the records of BP oil spill related claims by workers and business owners who gave Hood permission to review their personal financial information.
Feinberg said no, so Jim Hood filed suit. Then Feinberg said he wanted the case removed to Federal Court because the spill happened on the Outer Continental Shelf.
It certainly had nothing to do with the idea Ken didn’t want the case to be heard by a Mississippi Judge, presiding over Mississippi people upset about a spill affecting their Mississippi lives, beaches and businesses, nor how Hood was primarily concerned that Feinberg had violated the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act.
Why, that would be ridiculous…Feinberg’s just trying to follow the law.
And now, not content to stall this lawsuit by moving it to a potentially kinder judge in Federal Court, he now wants the case stayed:
“Feinberg, the administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, says all proceedings should be delayed until it is decided if Hood’s lawsuit should be transferred to the BP oil spill multi-district litigation in New Orleans, “this court should stay this case pending the (Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation’s) decision whether to transfer it to MDL 2179 so as to prevent the needless waste of time and resources of the parties and the court and to avoid potentially inconsistent rulings.”
Needless waste of time and resources?
Well, Ken might know something about that…ask claimants still waiting for payment along the Gulf Coast. Ask people who had to wait for their interim payments while Feinberg worked first on claims more beneficial to his boss, British Petroleum, the quick claims, the final claims, that required claimants to waive their rights to sue BP.
This all continues to be about transparency. Ken Feinberg has consistently said he understands the GCCF should be more transparent, and he has consistently done little to nothing about it. So when a group of claimants gives permission to the Mississippi Attorney General to look at their claims, at their personal financial information to ensure everything is on the up and up, Feinberg again errs on the side of being opaque, and then he stalls.
And then he stalls some more. And then he requests a stay.
Wow, sometimes Ken can’t buy a friend, whether it’s the politicians, the scientists or his boss…but hey, nobody ever said when it came to $20 billion dollars, giving away as little of it as possible would be easy. That’s why he’s getting the big bucks…$1.25 million dollars a month…but really, how much abuse can a guy take?
As many are aware by now, last week BP went one better than their past complaints of over-payments to claimants, by filing a strongly worded think piece on how the GCCF should stop making payments period…you know, because things are going so well now for everybody in the Gulf, what with the fish lesions, the closed beaches, the poor shrimping season and all that other, sciencey, environmental stuff…well, now a few more people are knocking on Ken’s door.
Tuesday, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood decided to file a lawsuit against Ken Feinberg and the GCCF, saying the oil spill claims czar has refused to turn over requested documents by claimants who signed waivers for Hood to review their claims.
Feinberg responded to the suit by calling Jim Hood a big fat liar:
“Prior to Memorial Day weekend, we met in D.C. with a number of his key staff and went through a summary of the claims process,” Feinberg continued (in an e-mail). “We reviewed 13 authorized claims and we went through the process as to how we determined eligibility and damages for those claims”
Feinberg also said they gave a total of 125 claims files, but Mr. Hood believes he is not getting all the pertinent information needed for an accurate assessment of those and other claims.
The Mississippi AG said… “Feinberg and the GCCF have continually made promises of compliance, but have failed to fully provide necessary information,” Hood said in a written statement. “All they have managed to do is delay, deny, deceive and dissemble.”
Yes, it would appear Ken Feinberg and the GCCF can’t operate in a transparent way even when directly addressing issues of their own transparency.
Hood wrote Feinberg needs to comply fully with his subpoena so he can then determine if Feinberg is acting in good faith, including such documents as:
–All agreements, including compensation agreements, between the claims operation and BP.
–All correspondence the claims operation has had with BP and the federal government.
–Proximity maps or other boundaries, zones or geographical areas used to process Mississippi claims.
–All communication between the claims operation and the experts it consulted with in determining its protocols and payment formulas.
–Individual claimant information, such as the amount of money requested and paid, how long the claim took to be processed, the reason for any denials or partial payments, and what if any additional documentation the claimant had to provide.
So, first BP’s got a problem with Ken. Then the Attorney General goes all legal on Feinberg…what else does this guy have to deal with (or ignore) this week?
Well, how about a few comments on the environmental recovery of the Gulf, stated by a couple of blasts from the past? Thursday is the anniversary of the Macondo well’s capping, leading to a number of “where are they now” articles including this one, where Ian MacDonald and David Hollander, two scientists who’ve been studying the Gulf from the beginning of this mess, take a walk down memory lane to recall how BP and the government lied and initially covered up the true rate of oil flow from the busted well-head, as well as commenting on the current environmental state of the Gulf and it’s possible future :
“…they say the story of what’s happening to the Gulf is just beginning. Hollander says a lot of the damage took place deep at the bottom of the Gulf. “With the accumulation of petroleum,” says, Hollander, “maybe you could call this a ‘dirty blizzard’ of materials sinking downward and accumulating on the sediment surface.”
“And that sediment a mile down in the Gulf has smothered much of the marine life – what Hollander calls a ‘toxic bathtub ring.’ Other tiny organisms are deformed. There are reports of dead dolphins and turtles washing ashore, and fish with suspicious lesions. “This could take decades, but I think you’ll start to see definitive responses within the ecosystem certainly on the order of five to seven years,” says Hollander. “So there’s that aspect of the living resource – which is really important – the fish health and safety, as we’re seeing with the fish lesions – these are really important questions which need to be addressed, we’re not going to be resolved within weeks, but more likely in months, to years.”
Years, several years…yet Feinberg intends to close shop in August of 2013, the date/timetable he’s used to base his claims payment methodology. Science continues to indicate this timetable is unrealistic. It isn’t enough time to gather a true understanding of possible damages to come, let alone do something about it and some might argue that’s the point…some might. In any case, the speedy recovery estimates could serve to save British Petroleum a great deal of money, especially if people continue to get sick, or if the ecosystem doesn’t bounce back so quickly…even if BP inexplicably tries to claim it already has.
“MacDonald agrees that we’re just starting to learn the effects of the spill.”
Perhaps these two men, a professor from FSU and an Oceanographer from USF, could be put more at ease if they just asked Mr. Feinberg his thoughts. He seems to know more about the health of the Gulf’s ecosystem than anyone…though if they did ask, Ken might decide to hold a few things back…(he seems to have issues with this (so does BP…))
Anyways Ken…I would love to sit here at my desk and show some compassion, you know, being a social worker and all but I can’t.
If I did, then when it comes to transparency, this would make me a hypocrite.
Oh…and one more thing in case you missed it…the House of Representatives took time away from both trying to bring back energy-wasting light bulbs and undoing the social safety net in order to deprive the White House of requested funds for ecosystem restoration in Louisiana.
In a shocking development affecting both the Gulf Coast and the nation, BP joined in with GOP finger pointing and now argue if they are required to tighten their belts any further, the same goes for the rest of the Gulf too. The oil company argued their case in a 29 page document made public Friday and filed with both the GCCF and the White House.
The company says the free ride is over, the Gulf is vastly improved so the time for fiscal responsibility is now, lest any more than necessary from the $20 billion oil spill fund be handed out to claimants and real deficit reduction for the Gulf Coast and this country becomes endangered.
A GOP spokesman reiterated the company’s position, “Spending is out of control and must be curtailed so BP and other corporate clients do not have their privileges endangered. Jobs are needed now and a rise in taxes will only curtail job creation from oil platforms across the Gulf to servants’ quarters across the Hamptons. Claimants, BP argues, though suffering from oil spill damages must give up their fair share of compensation now, or the country’s fiscal solvency and their childrens’ futures will be placed at the brink.
Though Ken Feinberg and the White House did not give an official response, several aides who wished to remain unidentified spoke with reporters late Friday afternoon, “It would certainly seem unreasonable at this late stage to end these payments,” said one, “We gave the GOP their no-sue clause and the extension of the Bush tax cuts and they gave us nothing. If we were now to put on the table Social Security cuts, the future feasibility of interim payments, or extra compensation to oyster fishers or even Medicare and Medicaid, what possible leverage would we have?”
Another undisclosed aide offered, “Feinberg and Obama have all but said if the latest studies find people have been poisoned by the oil they will have no recourse to the GCCF and in doing so, have not only already saved BP millions more in potential damages, but hinted to Cantor, Boehner and the rest of the Tea Party faithful their willingness to put the interests of corporations and the top 1% far above the needs of everyday Americans, and in response to these concession, BP then demanded the whole negotiation be moved even further to the right, more cuts, more savings, and not a dollar more revenue, non-negotiable.”
“The GOP wants to argue that British Petroleum creates jobs and therefore should not have to be taxed the entire $20 billion dollars,” added another, “but the simple fact is British Petroleum’s present problems are their own fault. Like investment bankers demanding spending cuts and government protection from the effects of the recession they caused, BP and the GOP seem to think people without jobs, or who need additional assistance should suffer so BP CEO’s and stockholders can hang onto their tax loopholes and private jets. This argument should be a non-starter.”
Other people outside of the White House also weighed in on the latest developments, James Carville, caught by one reporter seethed, “This is ridiculous! They’ve only just started studies into the health of the Gulf Coast, the GOP has done nothing about creating jobs, fishermen are finding red snapper with lesions that the NOAA says should be handled with gloves, the brown shrimp season was pathetic, unemployment is up and the housing market continues to suffer, tourism hasn’t reached pre-spill levels, sand dollars and starfish are turning up dead, some Louisiana beaches are still closed, we still got places that need cleaning, lives that need fixing and people who need to be paid, all while restoration of the coast has yet to even begin and BP is arguing that things are fine, things are improving? Well, why don’t we just throw Bob Dudley into the still remaining oil in Barataria Bay, see if that son of a bitch will float? If Ken Feinberg and Barack Obama do anymore sacrificing of the safety net, neither one will win a second term. They will have finally sold out everyone they were supposed to protect and in doing so changed the entire value system of this country!”
But not everyone was so dismissive of a compromise. In a statement by now Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel, uttered over steaks at Harry Carey’s, “Look, those Gulf Coast whiners can either get with the program or go the fuck home. We got an industry to save and a region that needs to learn the art of compromise. If they don’t like what our President and Ken Feinberg are doing to cover America’s butts and their futures, what are they gonna do, vote BP and GOP? I don’t fucking think so. Eat it, bitches…”
Despite continued White House talks outside of the public eye, it would appear negotiations have reached a standstill. British Petroleum and the GOP demand spending cuts their critics say will bolster the corporations and the wealthy at the expense of those harmed by the oil spill, and the elderly and by other Americans in need during this recession. Obama and Feinberg, seeming confident that they can work on their own legacies at the expense of same said Americans, appear to believe their core constituents will have no other option but to vote them a second term, no mater how painful the cuts they agree too might be.
In the opinion of this editor, it appears that both parties, and both BP and Feinberg make their decisions all while ignoring the clear polling numbers that say the majority of Americans believe the wealthy should pay higher taxes and BP should be forced to spend the entire $20 billion while entitlement programs and damages, both present and future should remain untouched and certainly not used as bargaining chips, demonstrating clearly how the GOP, BP, Barack Obama and Ken Feinberg continue to play legacy politics with peoples’ lives and futures at the behest of corporate interest in some sort of vacuum, where real people, American citizens are mere afterthought…no more than another batch of dead sand dollars washing up on the beaches of Florida.
Or, as Eric Cantor said about the tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri, any disaster assistance given to the victims, American citizens, will have to be offset by budget cuts elsewhere, or the emergency spending bill won’t be passed by Congress.
No longer breathing as citizens…be it the debt ceiling arguments by politicians, or disaster compensation by corporations and their employees, it would appear our function is that of a bargaining chip. The $20 billion dollar compensation fund, and the economy are there to be threatened by companies and politicians with persecution complexes, and an utter lack of respect for the suffering their decisions inflict on others.
In article after article on the spill and the GCCF, come the words, “slipping through the cracks,” in reference to the inevitability that some who have rightful claim to the British Petroleum compensation fund will be denied payment for any number of reasons…they couldn’t prove their physical ailments came as a result of exposure to the spill, they didn’t have the proper documentation, they didn’t get the help needed in completing their claim, they missed a deadline or maybe they even accepted a quick payment, far too soon, only to find new costs, new expenditures, new problems previously unaccounted for…
In any case, they’ve slipped.
Back in March, Feinberg, administrator of the fund, admitted as much when he said: “Here is the problem that I continually have to address … roughly 80% of the claims that we now have in the queue lack proof…That is a huge number…” Feinberg did not rule out settling claims in the future, but he added: “The claims that were denied had woeful, inadequate or no documentation to speak of.”
What he didn’t say was that all of these claims so summarily dismissed, well over 100,000 of them, were undeserving of compensation, just that they lacked proof.
So how many of them are legitimate claims made by people so harmed from the spill, but for whatever reason were unable to complete the forms to Feinberg’s satisfaction and were then denied? How many of the people who were made offers by the GCCF didn’t have the proper documentation to receive all they deserved and settled for pennies on the dollar?
How could we possibly have an answer to any of these questions?
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stated recently, after visiting Alabama to review progress along the Gulf Coast, “I am a little worried about the pace and the transparency” of the claims process, Holder said. “We have to ensure that it keeps pace with the restoration of this most beautiful part of the country.”
And so we come back to transparency, yet again…something Feinberg promises and doesn’t deliver, again….so the Gulf Coast is left to take his word for it, again.
Holder continued, “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.”
Yes they do. Start by finally opening the books and making sure mistakes haven’t been made, that claimants haven’t needlessly been left behind.
Then, ask Ken Feinberg some key questions:
1. What is more important, a rigid inflexibility on what can be accepted as proof of damage in the claims process, or claimants being paid too little or left completely uncompensated?
2. Understanding your many statements about the huge undertaking this has been, with well over 400,000 claimants…how it has been hard, difficult, almost impossible to complete, shouldn’t you have hired more professionals to assist claimants and in turn, assist you?
3. By not hiring as many people as necessary which may have made the process less manageable, didn’t you run the risk of making mistakes that have left people unpaid and if so, why did you feel it appropriate to run that risk?
4. If you truly did come to the Gulf to make things right for people, to be fair…why would it be okay for anyone deserving of compensation to go unpaid? If only a matter of timelines, research, investigation or expenditures, shouldn’t it be that the GCCF’s job is finished only when justice is done for everybody in the Gulf?
5. And shouldn’t the aggrieved party, the citizens and businesses of the Gulf Coast be the ones to decide when justice has been done, not you or the GCCF and certainly not British Petroleum?
Feinberg is running this show. He set the methodology for final and interim claims. He is in charge of determining what constitutes appropriate proof. He has taken credit for the no-sue clause attached to quick payments and final claims. He is making the rules, determining who and how many are hired, when claims offices close, when his job is done. So it would only stand to reason that Ken can make changes, just as he is doing with compensation to oyster fishers…so in that light…Ken? How many citizens of the Gulf Coast should get left behind by this process? How many should lose a house, a car, the togetherness of their family and community as a result of this spill? How many Americans should be left to fall through the cracks, for any reason?
Tough questions all but I do have a suggestion, even though it will entail me doing something I typically don’t like to do, but feel is apt given the situation: I’ll answer that question with another.
So, how many people should be left to fall through the cracks by the GCCF?
Well, how many employees of British Petroleum have gone to jail for the events that occurred on the Deepwater Horizon?
Feinberg should be transparent and Feinberg should think outside of the box on these claims, not because he is compelled to do so by the Justice department or even Gulf Coast residents, but because it is the right thing to do. Feinberg should stop being a lawyer and start trying to understand the people and ways of the Gulf Coast so that nobody gets left behind, and he should take as long as necessary to ensure this happens.
Anything less is negligent to his duties and irresponsible to all required magnanimity.
Not one left behind in this mess: a mistake on GCCF paper could very well be someone’s livelihood and/or way of life.
Last year, I was hanging out at MRB’s on St. Phillip, primarily because it was one of the few bars I could find in New Orleans that had hockey on their several televisions, but also ’cause back when I lived round town, few years back I was good friends with one of the bartenders, the bar I worked at being only two blocks away…my year break from social work and all that…time off, refresh, have many drinks while serving many drinks over many days and months and drinks, and did I mention…drinks?
Anyways…once a social worker, always a social worker and it don’t matter if you’re taking a break or not, you pay attention to people and you look, at least I do, for signs exhibited by those around you indicating how their days are treating them…
And that night at MRB’s, I was watching the Detroit Red Wings get clobbered, made all the more amusing because the bartender was sporting a Red Wings t-shirt and truth be told, I was watching the people much as I was watching the game and I noticed a particular woman, hanging out, shooting pool. She was early thirties, but dressed like a school-girl, pale skin, goth black hair in pony-tails, short plaid skirt and bright red lipstick. The sexual suggestions were not suggestions at all, and she was not alone. She was attractive, if you’re into that kind of look, the Suicide Girl tattoo thing, but what I found most fascinating was who she was with. I’d say he was mid-fifties, rather large, stained shirt and drunk as fuck and it became apparent this wasn’t a one time hook-up between the two, it was something more regular, more familiar. The bar knew the guy and showed no reaction whatsoever to her volume, her arms wrapped round his neck, her hand occasionally dropped to his crotch and she addressed many by name, but while I drank my drinks and watched the game I did notice a glance my way, a smile framed by those red lips, her pitch black mascara round arched eyes and a suggestive leg draped over the pool table, showing a lotta skin and a lotta exhaled breaths, lost way too quickly. At one point she watched me watching and she leaned over the table to take a shot, cue stick in hands. Glancing behind she grinned, then flipped up the short plaid skirt to reveal her g-string…
I felt bad, especially as she went back to the greasier man to grab the cigarette he extended and a fresh drink…I didn’t know why for sure I felt bad, but I did. The whole thing just smacked of bad knowledge…soon to be made even worse when she slid over to me, cigarette extended and paused…
Obligingly, I flicked the lighter as she leaned in, and she inhaled, then exhaled, her larger eyes fixated briefly on mine as she said…”I hate my life. I want to die.”
When she said the words, her face went blank and her eyes, they just kinda emptied…and over a year later, I haven’t forgotten her. She was a kind of photograph, a reminder of the many faces desperation can undertake, and a reminder how as a social worker, sometimes there’s nothing you can do, especially when you don’t even know if its any of your business…the whole thing just kind of sucked, really…
So, the moral of the story?
Feinberg is fucking over a lot of people, even the oyster fishers he claims to really have an eye out for, showing that GCCF fire just burns on and on…
Ken Feinberg, in an article from yesterday’s Times-Picayune, reports the pace of payments by the GCCF have improved, sped up and are finally hitting their stride. In the article by David Hammer, it is reported the average amount of final payments have increased, as has the percentage of final payments paid, also, the GCCF has processed 95% of the 300,000 claims that were filed before the month of May.
All true…and if these were the only measuring sticks we had, we should all be so impressed.
Unfortunately, there’s more to this story:
Yes, the average of the final payments are up from $16,000 to $20,000 dollars and whereas yes, this is an improvement, is it enough to compensate for all damages past, present and future, making the people whole? I don’t know, how much did you make last year? How much did the people in the Gulf make last year? Was it more than $20,000 dollars, and considering we know some larger companies have received payments as high as ten million dollars, what do these large sums do to the average payment of the average fisherman, average tour guide, average restaurant worker…average anybody, that’s a question I’d like an answer too. How much are the specific payments? Unfortunately, these questions will remain unanswered, because Ken’s promises of greater transparency have never materialized…
Yes, the percentage of final payments continue to rise. He has paid 26% of the final payments that have been filed, course it is fourteen months after the oil began to spill, and many have yet to get back to work while very few are earning what they did before the Deepwater Horizon exploded. It would seem that congratulating Feinberg for the percentage of claims paid rising is akin to congratulating someone for doing what they were hired to do, what they’ve been paid handsomely to do, and in this particular case, ignoring the exceedingly long time it took to get there…and, how much further Ken still has to go…
Yes, the GCCF has processed 95% of the 300,000 claims made. Impressive, except that 40% of those were denials and due to a lack of transparency, we don’t know why and according to many of those denied, they don’t always quite understand why either. Also, a large percentage of those 300,000 claims were of the quick claims variety which stipulated no questions asked, individuals get $5,000 and businesses get $25,000 dollars or in other words, the simplest of claims to process. This means the majority of those claims still waiting to be processed are the most complex and time consuming. Do we congratulate the high school graduate for demonstrating a mastery of addition and subtraction?
So, Feinberg still has three quarters of the claims to pay, continues to pay what would seem a small amount to claimants and has processed the easiest claims first…but he’s hitting his stride…all while financial desperation remains, with thousand upon thousands of claims waiting.
And there’s more…as the article continues:
“Catholic Charities case managers say they haven’t seen too many of the 1,300 fishers who have reportedly taken full-review final settlements from Feinberg. They have, on the other hand, seen thousands who have been denied interim payments on a quarterly basis. Federal law requires Feinberg to pay for ongoing losses without forcing claimants to sign away their rights to sue. But he’s made only 16,000 such payments.
Tom Costanza of Catholic Charities said most of the interim payment offers are minuscule and are attached to final payment offers. Even if those final offers aren’t close to what the claimant requested, the prospect of another quarter without aid is often too much to bear. He said that 70 percent of the claimants who have turned to state-financed technical assistance advisers for help are still waiting for resolution. “I just can’t see how this is moving in the right direction,” Costanza said. The stalemate is most pronounced with subsistence claims, a crucial issue in the Gulf Coast’s fishing-centric Vietnamese communities.”
As has been the case since the GCCF’s methodology was put into place…the quick payments were done ASAP while the final payments were slowly worked on, but seemingly neglected for the most part in all this are the interim payments. The interim payments are the only claim one can file which does not require the claimant to waive their right to sue British Petroleum. As Tom Costanza says above, when miserly interim checks arrive to the claimant, also accompanied by a final offer…can we finally put to rest the idea that Ken and the GCCF aren’t trying to coerce as many as possible into signing away their legal rights? Because yes, it would certainly seem the message being sent to those filing interim claims is as follows: not only will you wait the longest, your checks will be quite small, but take a look at what you could have if you accept the final payment…all you gotta do is sign by the “X”.
Meanwhile, it remains quite obvious that many, many people continue to be upset with the GCCF process…hell, as recently as this past week, people continue to post comments on this blog expressing their dissatisfaction…but of course, Ken has his supporters as well, Mike Voisin, owner of a Motivatit Seafood is mostly pleased with Feinberg and the GCCF, “I think Ken’s gonna make it right,” Voisin said. “We have a responsible party that I believe is acting responsibly in this case. Will people fall through the cracks? Certainly. You have this many claims, it will overwhelm even Ken Feinberg…”
Okay, but what of those people who fall through the cracks? Of the the well over 100,000 people denied outright by the GCCF, how many of those claims might have been legitimate? How many of those were indeed claims that simply fell through the cracks?
Want to know how many should be allowed to so fall?
Yes, this is a very exacting amount, something that will be very difficult to do, but so what? Nobody on the Gulf Coast or beyond asked for the oil spill, therefore nobody should be left behind. Nobody. It isn’t like the escrow money is running out. By Ken’s own estimates, he’s still sitting on almost $16 billion dollars of the $20 billion allotted. Nobody should be left behind, because when someone falls through the cracks, this is what it looks like:
“The chief engineer aboard a supply boat that was near the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded, and whose company quickly began working for BP in the cleanup, claims he was pushed into accepting a settlement for debilitating oil spill-related illness before the extent of his injuries was known.
Clayton Matherne says he accepted a $21,000 settlement from Guilbeau Marine without realizing that in doing so he was giving up his rights to get anything from BP. He says his medical bills have come to $700,000 and he still is dangerously ill, “The president of the United States and the federal government of the United States promised to protect us, but since the oil spill in 2010, they’ve chosen to turn a blind eye,” Clayton Matherne told Courthouse News in a telephone interview.
At an oil spill summit at the Hilton in New Orleans on anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Kenneth Feinberg, who oversees BP’s $20 billion claims process at the Gulf Coast Claims Facility abruptly ended a public meeting shortly after Matherne asked him how it was that the Gulf Coast Claims Facility had managed to lose all of Matherne’s medical records seven times. “The GCCF says they don’t have enough documentation to pay a $100,000 claim, when in fact this amount is only half – I’ve faxed my medical records seven times,” Matherne told Feinberg at the meeting. “Where are medical claims going?”
“We will honor all claims,” Feinberg said, then asked: “Was there evidence the medical condition was on account of oil?” Feinberg told Louisiana lawmakers this month that the GCCF had not seen a single claim for oil-related illnesses on the Gulf Coast. “Did Feinberg follow up? No!” Matherne said in the interview. Neither did Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu.”
Nobody should be left behind…
Feinberg should stay at it for as long as it takes…
And so the Gulf Coast can be sure anyone entitled a payment receives a payment, Feinberg should finally open his books, once and for all…without greater transparency, the Gulf Coast will never really know what is happening here.
Taking Ken’s word for it, as I’ve written before, is as much a thing of the past as Bobby Jindal’s sand berms.
Feinberg is the man who said he was neutral until Judge Barbier said he wasn’t. Feinberg is the man who said there were no health claims, and then quotes popped up where he discussed the health claims he’d received, and denied. This is also the man who told many claimants at town hall meetings he would follow-up with them personally, then never did. Finally, he’s the man who said he was coming to the rescue of the Gulf Coast, only to make too many, far too many, feel they needed rescue from his Gulf Coast Claims Facility.
So ultimately, yes…Ken Feinberg can “say” whatever he wants…that he is hitting his stride, but what he is actually “doing” still leaves much to be desired.
Attorney Brian Donovan, with the Donovan Law Group in Tampa, Florida, believes Feinberg is simply doing what he is being paid by BP to do.
“He’s doing his job,” Donovan says. “Feinberg is a defense attorney representing BP. To think otherwise is being foolish. As a defense attorney, he’s doing a great job for BP. But they are saying ‘go with us, or sue us’.”
Donovan has written: “In lieu of ensuring that BP oil spill victims are made whole, the primary goal of GCCF and Feinberg is the limitation of BP’s liability via the systematic postponement, reduction and denial of claims against BP. Victims of the BP oil spill must understand that ‘Administrator’ Feinberg is merely a defense attorney zealously advocating on behalf of his client BP.”
And regarding Feinberg/BP’s no-sue clause:
Contrary to what Feinberg is telling claim applicants, according to Donovan, under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990, a victim of the BP oil spill must first present a claim for damages to BP/GCCF and wait 90 days. If he or she is not paid, or accepts a lesser amount, that does not preclude the victim from pursuing future compensation. In addition, the GCCF/Feinberg requirement that a claimant sign a general release of all rights and claims is contrary to the OPA.
And regarding the inevitable:
While Donovan’s firm has been largely successful in assisting its clients in obtaining their settlements, he says: “I’m sure down the road we’re going to have to file suit. I don’t doubt that
Sen. Mary Landrieu conducted a recent roundtable discussion, the purpose of which was to get to the bottom of what is going on with the claims process for small business…and something strange happened.
Feinberg found a friend.
And that new friend is none other than Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board Chairman Harlon Pearce.
Though Pearce criticized Feinberg for not giving fishers enough priority in the claims process, asked Feinberg to give more thought to how public perception about Gulf seafood would impact the speed of which the industry can recover, and asked for more consistency in the offers made to different businesses with similar claims…Pearce also praised Feinberg for recent changes to the process and the hiring of local lawyers, finishing up by saying, “We’re getting there.”
Such a rare compliment must have had Feinberg simply glowing, and he responded, “My problem is with communication to claimants, transparency and a perceived absence of consistency – not generosity.”
And with Feinberg I would agree, your communication sucks and yes, so too does the GCCF’s transparency. As far as a perceived absence of consistency? Well, if the transparency weren’t so horrible, it might not only better your ability to communicate, but you might be able to do something about what you call “perceived” inconsistencies.
But, admitting you have a problem is the first step.
As far as generous?
I don’t know what articles you read Ken, but just about the only companies I’m aware of that consider you too generous is British Petroleum and Omega Protein.
Anyway, back to Mr. Pearce…
Another person present at the meeting Sandy Nguyen, who works with claimants on behalf of the Small Business Development Center, also had issues with transparency, namely that how settlement offers are calculated still is not clear to those she works with. She went on to say that frustration is driving some claimants to give up…and take the quick payment. Why? The slow crawl of the process is leading people into further financial ruin.
“We’re not sophisticated enough to understand the protocols,” Ms. Nguyen said. “I’ve begged some of these people not to (take the quick payments), but we’re seasonal, so you knock us out one season and we’re struggling.”
This idea of the GCCF stalling people into quick payments was recently echoed by Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Atwater during a newspaper interview when he said if the GCCF were an insurance company, he would audit the company’s books and probably shut them down, “There’s no pattern of effort to suggest to me that this is anything other than one more tactic to stall individuals or small business owners from getting the compensation they need to be made whole, with the intention of dragging this out and having individuals ultimately accept the lowest possible final claim out of desperation.”
Feinberg, for some unknown reason, still doesn’t believe this could possibly be the case, just as Feinberg appears to believe he has no problems with the generosity of claims offers.
And this time, Feinberg had an ally…
Harlon Pearce, who urged fishers to stop playing the victim card, and added, “You’re not going to like what I have to say. There are two kinds of fishermen: ones who want to sell a story and ones who want to sell the seafood. We need to all pull this thing together.”
Agreed, pull this thing together…
But it would seem to me that when the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board Chairman states that fishers are playing victim cards and suggesting the ones who won’t just move on are trying to sell stories as opposed to trying to get their lives back…what might happen is fishers will not come together at all, but be divided over such comments.
Especially when only 10% of final claims have been paid.
Especially when fewer interim claims than even 10% have been paid.
Especially when oil is still being found in the Gulf.
Especially when nobody can tell anyone how long it will be before the damage ends.
In response to Pearce’s surprising comments to Ms. Nguyen, Feinberg smiled, yet again, “Did you hear what he said to her? He’s right.”
Of course he is Ken, of course he is…
The world you live in must be a beautiful and astonishing place, perhaps a lot like the Gulf of Mexico before British Petroleum fucked the whole thing up…and also before you found a way to make it worse.