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?
I know I certainly don’t envy anyone who makes their living by what they catch from Gulf waters, be they shrimpers or fishers or whoever, because things don’t seem to be getting much better. The catch, especially the shrimp catch is way off, with some shrimpers estimating their catch to be off by 80%. In one article I read, a company used to taking in ten thousand pounds of shrimp per day has taken in about 41,000 pounds all season.
And it isn’t just the shrimp.
Many have read reports of the killifish, and the cellular damage done to its reproductive functions and gills as a result of hydrocarbon poisoning. Many also are aware this small minnow like fish is near the bottom of the food chain and is considered a good indicator of the Gulf’s general health.
Even Ken Feinberg seemed to backtrack the other day on his estimation of a recovered Gulf by 2013 when he said of the shrimp catch, “We are monitoring this, and we are sensitive to these concerns. We reserve the right to change the formula if anecdotal and empirical evidence justifies it.” And that’s about as close to an admission of error as one’s likely to get from Ken, not that he’ll actually change anything but I suppose admitting to a problem is the first step.
Oh and let’s see, what else? Ah yes, though the FDA has maintained the Gulf seafood is safe to eat, a new study has challenged this assumption, reporting the FDA’s qualifications on what constitutes safe are incredibly flawed.
So…bad catches, sick fish, FDA screw-ups…yep, it’s got to be hard to be a shrimper, a fisher, anyone working the Gulf waters these days…and besides the fact the oil’s still out there, you know what else isn’t helping, what’s making this whole Gulf Coast mess even worse?
Eighteen months later, the information is still inconsistent. We’ve been treated to eighteen months of profit margins, legal maneuverings and a whole range of answers and/or denials to every goddamned question…
Everyone has been forced to endure eighteen months of agendas.
The EPA, the FDA and the NOAA all appear to have an agenda designed to make it seem the Gulf is perfectly fine. British Petroleum’s agenda is all about savings and profit margin, all the time, and their stance too is that everything is okay in the Gulf. The Obama Administration has their own agendas, their own problems. For starters, they’re not seen as trustworthy, having initially ceded far too much control to British Petroleum in the capping of the well and the clean-up, and now, today, they are widely perceived as having forgotten the Gulf Coast even exists at all…
And all these agendas, they all bring us back to the seafood industry.
What exactly is a fisher supposed to make of all this? That person who is just trying to get their life back to normal, who wants to get back to work, but also doesn’t want to make anybody sick; what the fuck are they supposed to do? Who are they supposed to believe? Who are they supposed to trust? BP? The government? The FDA and NOAA? All these entities telling them everything is fine, or the increasingly negative academic studies, not to mention the fishers own years of experience in the Gulf waters, showing them that something appears to be wrong out there…
So hard to know for sure, and such an unenviable place to be.
And you know what really pisses me off?
It didn’t have to be this way, not at all.
If British Petroleum had stuck to their promises to make people whole. If Feinberg had stuck to his promises to take care of the people in the Gulf British Petroleum hadn’t gotten to, perhaps then the financial pressures could have been eased off on everybody. If the Obama Administration had done more than toss out a fucking speech and Barack had come down to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and done more than look concerned, pick up a tarball or eaten a damned shrimp…if Obama had worked, as a leader and kept the Gulf, and everything the Gulf means to this country in the foreground of American consciousness…maybe then these problems would seem more manageable today, to everybody.
If the only agenda in the Gulf had been to make sure people were taken care of and those responsible for this mess were held accountable…yes, if that had been the only agenda, then today in the Gulf we might at least have trust.
Instead, all we got are versions of what’s real: BP’s version, Obama’s version, the FDA’s version, the NRDC’s version, LSU’s, the shrimper’s, Halliburton’s and the GCCF’s version…just to name a few.
And that ain’t helping anybody.
Certainly not the public, and certainly not the people who continue to suffer as a result of BP’s catastraphuk.
So what now?
Wish I knew…all I hope for at this point is that Feinberg, for once, can be taken at his word, and he actually will take a long, hard look at the recovery estimates he based his methodology upon…because if you work harder to catch only 20% of the shrimp you normally get, the payment methodology needs to be changed.
Oh, and to the BP spokesman who said the 80% drop-off in the shrimp catch is within the normal range of good and bad seasons, you are just one more bullshit microphone with another ethically conflicted agenda, and you should be tossed into the next oil sheen spotted on the Gulf’s surface above the Macondo wellhead.
So, to sum up…a corporation screwed up and did billions in financial damage to an entire region of the country, not to mention the emotional toll on people and the physical toll on the environment. The people have recourse to the law, but that is a process that could take decades. The government issues false platitudes and seems to disappear just when they are needed most, almost as if they are backing the corporations that did the damage rather than the people who got screwed.
And nobody goes to jail.
Hey, now that I think about it, sure sounds familiar, kinda like what those people in New York are so pissed off about.
Rocky Kirstner, writing on his blog for the NRDC, speaks to several fishermen who highlight the ongoing problems in the Gulf:
The all important white shrimp season opened a week ago and some fishermen say it too will be a disaster, perhaps worse than the brown shrimp season that ended in July and was a disappointment to many. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen by a long shot,” says Grand Isle’s Dean Blanchard, once the largest shrimp buyer on the coast. “The white shrimp are born right here near the coast. They can’t make it through this oil. These are born to die conditions.”
Blanchard says fishermen continue to report dead dolphins in the area on a daily basis, something he says was unheard of in previous years. And on Thursday he took a trip to some oyster beds in nearby Barataria Bay that had been seeded with oyster spat to try to encourage them to come back to life. Instead they found death and devastation. “Everything was dead and the cages were full of oil. No one down here is being held accountable.”
Dean Blanchard, like many along the Gulf, also continue to have problems being compensated for the damages they have suffered from BP’s oil spill, despite all those promises from BP:
Dean Blanchard says he has given up on getting help from BP or the government. He says his business lost at least $6 million due to impacts of the BP blowout, yet BP has paid him just $1 million so far. He’s had to lay off more than half of his employees and now is wondering if he just may have to shut down altogether. “BP has turned by life upside down, and I don’t know what’s coming next. I may have to close down and go into the oil business because that seems to be the only thing left.”
And through it all, Feinberg maintains his actions with the GCCF have been “vindicated,” that the Gulf is heading towards a fast recovery, that if people, including most of those in the seafood industry, don’t raise revenues by 5% each quarter, their interim payments will be cut back and hey, final payments could be reduced in the future as well.
Feinberg maintains all will be well in the Gulf by 2013.
He continues to condition final payments upon claimants waiving their rights to sue BP, the no-sue clause, thus rendering said claimants ineligible for any further compensation from BP on an unknown future.
In fact, despite the troubles fishermen are reporting with their catches, Feinberg shrugs his shoulders and tightens up GCCF interim claims saying that since all federal and most state fishing grounds have been reopened this shows improvement in the seafood industry’s ability to get back to a way of life stolen from them by BP. He also reports an increase in catches of shrimp in the first few months of 2011…a brown shrimp season many shrimpers call a disaster.
The Gulf of Mexico is still in trouble and you are not protecting claimants, you are protecting BP, and along with BP you are morally culpable.
Yeah, been offline a few days. Well, a week to be exact and boy, has my re-entry into social work been a major headache. Got pulled over early this morning, while I was working…that adult crisis job I do which helps enable the police of my town to spend less time in emergency rooms dealing with mental health and AODA issues and more time on the streets, doing whatever it is they do, like pulling over adult crisis workers and giving them hefty tickets for a minor mistake… while I was en route to a hospital, but no, I’m not bitter…
Patient until the cop who wrote the ticket needs something from me in an ER, and it will eventually happen, and then we’ll just have to wait and see how that plays itself out…but I digress, so…
Been away a week now so what’s going on in Feinberg land?
Well, it would appear Ken is still having fun playing Monty Hall in the oil spill version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Added to the usual claimant gamble of accepting a final payment from the GCCF when the future environmental impact of the spill remains unknown, and also signing that waiver forbidding the claimant from recouping any more damages, ever…Feinberg continues to mess with the heads of those filing for interim claims by saying “at some point,” final claims payments will be reduced.
The implied message being, sure, you can continue to get a payment every three months without waiving your right to sue British Petroleum, but you might get what’s behind door number three, a baby goat, in the form of lower final payment offer down the road…so that’s the risk you run. Take the money now, or perhaps later…take nothing.
Spoken like a true advocate of the Gulf Coast people.
Oh, and who decides if those final payments get lowered, and by how much?
I would imagine that to be a certain Ken Feinberg, British Petroleum employee extraordinaire, and the fact of the matter is, putting pressure on claimants, either direct or indirect to be over and done with the GCCF will primarily benefit British Petroleum in the form of those signed no-sue waivers, which bar claimants from any more financial compensations should a hurricane stir up the oil, or the Macondo Well be found to be leaking, or environmental problems continue, cancer rates spike, any host of things, really. The last thing BP needs is a bunch of claimants waiting around with the ability to still sue the company. Such a headache. Twenty years later in Prince William Sound, environmental damage is still very evident a la Exxon Valdez. Twenty years? Not this time, that’s seventeen years after 2013, that being the year Ken has declared, in his infinite Boston Legal wisdom, this GCCF game show will end. The fact environmental studies won’t be nearly complete by then, thus potentially leaving thousands in the lurch?
It’s good to be the Ken!
It’s reported these final claims payments could be adjusted as soon as November of this year, which will be the next time the methodology is reviewed. So all you claimants out there, ya better pick door number 1, 2 or 3 and make it fast before Feinberg shuts the show down completely.
Let’s see…what else…
Oh, last week Judge Barbier issued a 39 page ruling where he dealt a few blows to Ken Feinberg and British Petroleum. Barbier ruled the complaints against BP fell under Maritime law and OPA (Oil Pollution Act), not state law, thus unlike Ken Feinberg’s GCCF, Maritime law will allow for punitive damages. Barbier also took an expansive view of the claims that could fall under OPA, “The Court notes that OPA does not expressly require ‘proximate cause,’ but rather only that the loss is ‘due to’ or ‘resulting from’ the oil spill,” Barbier wrote. “OPA causation may lie somewhere between traditional ‘proximate cause’ and simple ‘but for’ causation.” So, unlike Ken Feinberg’s GCCF, this means that people with economic damage as a result of their enrollment in the Vessels of Opportunity Program, and people who lost work/wages as a result of the oil drilling moratorium are allowed to bring their complaints for damages in court.
So, that’s a good thing…and, um, oh yeah…
Like all things corporate, Ken Feinberg continues to fail upwards.
Though criticized for his handling of the 9-11 fund, he got the gig doing British Petroleum’s GCCF, and though criticized for his handling of the GCCF, he will now help the Indiana State Fair with their stage collapse fund. And he’ll do it for free and why shouldn’t he? British Petroleum has been and will continue to make him a very wealthy man…you know, helping British Petroleum make many, many people really, really, really whole…and besides, it’s not like Ken has anything else to do…
Especially since all these oil slicks they keep finding in the Gulf, they have nothing to do with the Macondo Well.
We know this because British Petroleum said so, and they most certainly would not steer anyone in the Gulf wrong, or…okay, maybe they would…
And, that’s the phone…the crisis phone…
Okay then, it turns out my patience has paid off…and I need to get off the computer now, get to the emergency room.
It seems a certain police officer from early this morning is at the hospital with someone who may need an emergency detention, the client has suicidal thoughts…just have to wait and see if the Chapter 51 is necessary. I’ll know it when I do the interview, but if that person does need to be detained to a hospital, well…part of my job is choosing which hospital and that might not be good for the officer. Some hospitals are twenty minutes away. Some are three hours… and recently, I heard someone express that like it or not, the Gulf Coast needs Ken Feinberg right now. I agree, but like with the police in my town, just because we need them, doesn’t necessarily give them the right to do a poor job, do things like write tickets they shouldn’t, or force Gulf Coast residents to gamble with their futures. When they do things like that, sometimes it can turn around and bite them in the ass.
So, here’s hoping the officer who wrote me the ticket, who’ll be doing the transporting is patient too, because if my client does need to be detained to a hospital, I may just decide the officer will be going on a long, long drive…taking the client to a hospital far, far away…
Over a year in, and the spill heard round the Gulf remains in its infancy.
Sucks to write it, read it or hear it, but nonetheless it’s the truth.
Sure, a large portion of the oil has been cleaned up and yes, the tourists are coming back. One might head down to the Gulf, take a look at the water and see that everything looks fine, but there are simply too many unknowns under that surface. Hell, twenty-one years later, the impact of the Exxon Valdez is still being determined.
“The true extent of the spill’s damage is just now beginning to come into view for clean-up workers, commercial fishermen, oil-well workers, charter boat captains, restaurant owners, Gulf Coast denizens and independent scientists studying the effects of the spill – and the fallout becomes more troubling by the day. Independent researchers, like Samantha Joye from the University of Georgia, report that oil coats the Gulf floor where it has decimated deep-water marine life. Residents up and down the Gulf Coast report that tar balls and mats continue to litter their beaches, and re-oilings are common. The multi-billion-dollar Gulf seafood industry is reeling from both small catches and plummeting demand brought on by very real concerns about contamination. Dead dolphins and sea turtles continue to wash ashore at record-breaking rates. Oyster beds have been devastated and are in desperate need of restoration. And perhaps most disturbing of all, increasingly large numbers of clean-up workers and coastal residents are getting sick.”
So it is with this in mind, I continue to be drawn back to British Petroleum’s insistence that future claims payments be stopped, or Kenneth Feinberg’s methodology that has everything rosy in the Gulf by 2013.
Simply put, that’s bullshit.
An oil company, in the Gulf of Mexico, gleaning billions of dollars in profits over the years unleashes the worst environmental disaster on a region and a people. The financial losses were tremendous, as were the fears of a lost culture and way of life, the destruction of family, life savings and the wholesale tragedy in death to wildlife. Equally important and just as devastating is the loss of security and the fear of the unknown. What if I get sick? When will seafood customers return? What happens if a hurricane hits the region, will the oil on the bottom be stirred back to the surface, and what would that mean?
Studies are only beginning, yet an oil company is dead-set on this affair’s end. The toll on life is not yet known, but the man in charge of helping people rebuild their life amps up the scrutiny of claims while the timeline moves and the clock ticks. It’s simply short-sighted and completely wrong. Its public relations in quick pursuit of the best media lie. Its scientific ignorance, because the only thing anyone knows for sure…is nobody knows what is really happening under the surface and what that means for the region’s future.
This irresponsibility must end. Promises made by corporations should mean something because if it’s generally accepted these promises are shit, then everybody loses in the end. I’m of the opinion, and color me emboldened by the fiasco of the Democrat’s debt ceiling cave-in, it just might be time to make corporations pay for their deceit. British Petroleum doesn’t live up to their promises? Okay, then how can we, as a people, make them financially hurt for the big lie? It would appear money, or lack of it, is what they best understand.
Perhaps this is where the debate should be heading, or not.
Don’t know for sure, kind of like when it comes to the healing of the Gulf…how long will it take? Don’t know for sure…nobody does, not BP and not Feinberg, no matter what they might claim.
Most everybody’s aware by now there were an abnormal amount of dead dolphin calves washing ashore this year, as well as a much larger than usual number of turtles dying, and there is of course the red snapper, with the NOAA recommending if fishermen catch the fish, or any other kinds of fish with lesions, fin rot or other assorted maladies they not touch them with bare hands and throw them overboard, all while they continue to maintain the seafood is safe to eat. But, with all these strange events, it would seem to make sense that these occurrences, when placed side by side could be readily explained by a certain oil spill, and a certain dumping of dispersants into the Gulf of Mexico to combat said oil spill…but if you buy that explanation, you’d be wrong.
Dolphins? Probably an algae bloom.
Turtles? Damned shrimpers trawling.
Red Snapper? Well, bacteria obviously.
Okay, then how about the sand dollars and starfish washing ashore along Florida beaches?
From the Pensacola News Journal:
“At first glance, it looks like a coin machine exploded on the shoreline. Thousands of sand dollars cover the beach from the Fort Pickens gate area to at least a mile west. And they’re also directly across Santa Rosa Sound from that area, on the south shore of Gulf Breeze.
The nickel- and quarter-sized sand dollars are all dead. They’re not white; rather, they’re tinged green like a coin left in water. The mass die-off is raising concerns about what killed or is killing the sand dollars and hundreds of sea stars mixed in with them.”
And then we get to the quotes from the locals, a type of quote that those following the events of the Gulf are becoming far too familiar with, uncomfortably so:
“This is not a normal thing,” Mary Lynn White 53, said. “I’ve lived in Gulf Breeze all my life. I grew up on the water, and I always take notice of changes. Something is killing them. I’d definitely say it is related to the oil spill.”
Or this one:
“I had a bait net, and I was able to scoop up the net full of them over and over and over,” said Berta Hurston, 56, of Gulf Breeze. “I’ve never seen anything like this. And I grew up in the area and I live on the water. It’s really disturbing to me.”
I seem to remember many similar statements made about the amount of dead dolphins, (never seen it like this before) turtles (no, not like this) and the condition of some of the fish being caught in the Gulf (been here thirty years and no, never), not to mention the woeful beginning to the brown shrimp season where the shrimp were more scarce than usual and undersized, leading some shrimpers to call for an early end to the season as it might do more harm than good, and the docks aren’t buying them anyway.
In each and every one of these situations, there is an alternative culprit besides the oil spill that can be named…
But this many deaths across this many species, not to mention the fish kills occurring earlier in the year…could reasonable lead a person to believe one of two things…
Either the oil spill is the culprit, BP’s gotta pay and Feinberg needs to revise his estimation that all will be well in the Gulf by 2012 (good luck proving that in court), or…the Gulf of Mexico is in a real lot of trouble.
Neither option is appealing…but my money’s on British Petroleum being at fault.
Call it a hunch, a hunch constructed of several coincidences, with unfortunately more expected to come.
Kenneth Feinberg, neutral administrator of the GCCF, told a joint state House and Senate committee reviewing the claims process he hasn’t seen any scientific linkage of cleanup measures, like chemical dispersants, and health problems, “When it comes to cleanup and the respiratory claims, I think right now the medicine and science are lacking. I haven’t seen it in the claims,” Feinberg said.
Sen A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell, then asked how people might be compensated if the symptoms show up in later years?
Feinberg responded that after his office closes in August of 2013, the only current option would be for a person to file a lawsuit.
Okay, three things about this:
It would seem we are far past the point of taking Feinberg’s word on anything. He refuses to open up the claims process to anyone, despite repeated requests by political figures across four states, so how are we to know for ourselves that Feinberg is receiving no information about health effects, especially considering when all is said and done, Feinberg, as he has previously stated, will be turning all claims materials over to British Petroleum.
Think BP might turn around and finally let somebody take a look at the claims data in its entirety?
No, me neither.
So again, transparency in the process continues to be a problem, something Feinberg has repeatedly said he would address, and continually does not.
If symptoms show up in later years, as symptoms are likely to, Feinberg suggests the only remedy available will be for people to file a lawsuit.
Quick payments and final payments require the claimant to waive their right to sue BP and a 100 other companies so who exactly are they supposed to sue? And interim payments, which don’t require any waiver, are simply not being paid…so down the road, please tell us Ken, who should sick people sue? You? Your law firm?
Feinberg rode into the Gulf on a white horse claiming to be the solution to everyone’s problems…and when it comes to the potential for adverse health effects, this is one more occasion where he has done nothing but let the people of the Gulf Coast down. In August of 2013, he’ll be gone…and if people continue to get sicker…they will be left with no resort. Right now, today…Feinberg is in a position to do something about this potential problem…but like he’s shown time and time again…the claims process was never about Gulf Coast residents, it’s been about British Petroleum…and the money he can save…period.
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
Hey, I thought this whole oil spill deal was all kinda, you know…over.
At least that’s the impression I got watching all them there sparkly British Petroleum commercials, but man, over the past two days, the news has been flying pretty serious again in the Gulf, and between you, me, the courts and the water…I think this has just begun…Maybe I just got distracted by the hockey playoffs…
What? What do you want? I never said I wasn’t from the north…
Archbishop Gregory Aymond got on bended knees and put his arms around two women, listened to the damage BP and the GCCF have wrought and did his best to console them. The women had come to Catholic Charities in Violet for counseling and help with their spill damage claims.
Turns out one of the women, Lois Neville of Violet is yet another one of those people who Ken Feinberg, BP paid administrator of the GCCF and $20 billion escrow fund is saying…well, golly gosh gee, must have slipped through the cracks…hey, mistakes get made, do you know how many claims we’ve received, we’re working as fast as we can…etc…ad nauseum.
Funny thing though, BP was helping her financially, but all payments stopped when Feinberg took over…and she filed for her final settlement, and well past the 90 day time limit Feinberg gave himself to present final offers, she is still waiting…
In her words from David Hammer’s article in the Times-Picayune:
“I’m barely making ends meet with my savings and rental income, and I’m depressed, I’m stressed out,” Neville said. “I get very angry. I hate to even watch the news because there are other people in a worse predicament than me.”
Depressed and stressed out…like thousands of others, yet BP has closed the coffers on funding for mental health in the Gulf Coast…maybe when they said, making things right…they meant everything but the mind.
And hey, why might Ms. Neville still be waiting for her final claim?
It’s been a year since the oil spilled.
Well, on the GCCF front…Feinberg will tell any reporter who listens how he has paid out $3.9 billion dollars of that escrow fund…and apparently, he is quite proud of this fact…lord knows why…after all that means…he hasn’t paid out $16 billion dollars…and of that 3.9, it’s mostly quick payments…very few final offers, and even fewer interim payments…so what gives? Oh…right, right: mistakes get made, do you know how many claims we’ve received and we’re working as fast as we can…got it. Um, bullshit? Not to mention, how convenient was it for Feinberg, the day before the anniversary, the day before the press was to descend all over the Gulf Coast, to suddenly issue the largest final offer to date to Omega Protein Corp, $44.8 million dollars total. I’m sure the timing of this was coincidental, of course…Feinberg couldn’t possibly be such a cynical asshole to present this offer as some sort of distraction to the press, you know, so the coverage might be a bit more balanced as the press goes out to find the countless Lois Neville’s across the Gulf Coast, the ones seeking counseling because they are struggling not to lose everything, again, a year later…
And speaking of unhappy people in the Gulf…well, let the lawsuits begin, and rightfully so…
70,000 people have filed suit in the Gulf in a maritime law proceeding brought by rig owner Transocean, using a form that also expanded the suit to include British Petroleum. This would be on top of the 350 other suits, representing multiple parties already filed. No word on how many of these people are of the 400,000 that Feinberg and the GCCF have not paid yet, or plan not to pay, but Stephen Herman, co-lead attorney for the plaintiffs said, “I think it certainly validates the litigation effort. I also think that it confirms the sentiment out there that Feinberg and the GCCF haven’t really done a great job of giving people what they thought they were entitled to.”
Not to be outdone, British Petroleum filed a suit of their own, going after Cameron International, the company that made the blowout preventer that wouldn’t close. BP would like a court to rule against the company, declaring the device caused or contributed to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. Such a ruling would help BP fight against a designation of being “grossly negligent” which if so designated would dramatically raise the amount of fines British Petroleum will have to pay under the Oil Pollution Act.
Perhaps Feinberg knows a judge, to help out his boss, maybe call in some favors perhaps? It’s been a while since he got a raise, and remember the reason the GCCF keeps screwing people? Right, it’s because they’re overworked…not because the GCCF is trying to coerce people into claims attached to a clause where they sign away their rights to sue BP, and not because Feinberg is trying to save BP money, and certainly not because Feinberg is just trying to keep people out of court…cause, that worked out real well…(see above).
Okay…well, at least…all the oil is gone. And that’s important because according to Feinberg’s methodology, all that oil has to be outta there by 2013. If not, if the Gulf isn’t back to normal by then, the entire pay-scale he is using to determine damages for claimants will be off, and not in the claimants favor…so, hey…at least BP and the Coast Guard, they got that one right…oh, what?
“Mike Robichaux is a local doctor who has seen up to 60 patients in recent weeks with a mysterious sickness that some attribute to BP’s oil spill. Dr. Robichaux has been making house calls because many of the “stoic” workers don’t want others to know that they are sick. Yet, Dr. Robichaux tells the AFP, “Ninety percent of them are getting worse… Nobody has a clue as to what it is.”
Reuters reports that the U.S. National Institutes of Health has launched a ten-year study on the health of 55,000 oil spill clean-up workers and volunteers. Perhaps it will take ten years to get an answer for Dr. Robichaux.
Not everyone blames the oil spill for the health problems plaguing Gulf cleanup workers. Namely, BP does not blame the BP oil spill for the health problems plaguing Gulf cleanup workers. In a BP comment to the AFP, the company wrote, “Illness and injury reports were tracked and documented during the response, and the medical data indicate they did not differ appreciably from what would be expected among a workforce of this size under normal circumstances.”
As for compensating sick workers, this would fall under state law and “must be supported by acceptable medical evidence.” Are the 415 Louisianans suffering from respiratory tract infections, nausea, and headaches evidence enough?”
Oh, and as mentioned before…it ain’t just the physical body having problems…a study funded by the National Science Foundation has found that mental health difficulties are likely to linger on the Gulf Coast for the following decade. According to the study, two factors that could cause stresses to persist are delays in compensation for spill damages by the claims process, and possible slow recovery of fishing resources and the fishing industry.
Feinberg, Dudley…your ears burning?
Okay…my bad on all this everybody…I promise to stop watching so much hockey. It really would appear this thing is far from over…that few are doing well in the Gulf at all
In fact…it would appear the only people really doing well these days are British Petroleum…once again paying stock dividends and issuing bonuses to the elite within its company, and Ken Feinberg,who’s sitting on a helluva nice raise from his British Petroleum puppet masters. Yeah, Ken may be taking a lot of criticism these days, but from everything I read, it doesn’t appear to be affecting his psyche at all, in fact he refers to himself as “Bloodied, but unbowed.” And that’s a good thing too, because whereas some of you lightweights out there might want your guy in charge of helping hundreds of thousands of people recover from this catastraphuk to brag about such things as fairness, compassion, generosity and empathy….I like my arbitrator of a compensation fund to talk like he’s trying out for the WWE, you know, to be a bad-ass who don’t take no crap from some fishing type guys and business people who’ve never been to New York.
Nope…not going well at all:
Cleanup workers are getting sick, depression is running rampant and suicides are up across the Gulf Coast. There’s still oil out there while BP continues to scale back cleanup. BP is reneging on financial promises to help with the oyster beds while helping their stockbrokers and executives to more money. The health of the Gulf continues to be debated. Dolphins are dying. Fish have sores. There are dead zones on the Gulf seafloor. Allegations exist that BP is trying to taint the science by influencing the research. A year after the Deepwater Horizon blew up, no laws have been passed by Congress to help ensure it doesn’t happen again while experts maintain it very well could happen again. The NOAA, EPA and FDA all claim the seafood from the Gulf is safe to eat, and they finally opened the last fishing area but the country isn’t buying it: what the government says, or the seafood – which leaves the industry far from recovered. Too many people are waiting for Feinberg to do his fucking job…homes are being lost, jobs haven’t come back and businesses continue to go bankrupt.
And the President?
Well, he said some words and stuff, but ah…who cares, or believes that guy anymore…
So, as I commented two days ago, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange fired off an angry letter to Ken Feinberg, the BP paid administrator of BP’s compensation fund outlining several objections he had with the process, chief among them being the snail’s pace and meager size of the payments, the lack of transparency in the process, and the stress this is causing to the citizens of his state. Mr. Strange demanded that Ken Feinberg “stop dragging his feet.”
This apparently didn’t sit too well with Mr. Feinberg who promptly wrote a letter of his own, to rebut the charges made by Strange…
Let’s review, shall we?
When it comes to the Quick Pay, Attorney General Strange asserts the reason so many are accepting the quick payments is that claimants are sick of dealing with the GCCF. Feinberg disputes this by writing that claimants take the quick payment because the “claimant cannot prove any further damage.” Maybe, maybe not…many are curious to see if Feinberg is correct in this assumption but its awfully hard tell with so little transparency in the process. Besides, how are we to know if people cannot prove any more damage? Claimants who have accepted quick payments are no longer trying to do so which brings us back to Strange’s assertion, that people choose quick payments out of frustration. One need look only so far as some of the comments being posted by claimants to this website, or the GCCF’s own methodology comments page:
From a business/individual on February 16th, “This methodology is so unfair it now looks good to individuals and business to take the quick pay, you hold all the money and the cards.”
From a business owner on Feb 15th, “Your formula is definitely shaking-down people and businesses that are in a weakened position and are under duress.”
From an individual on Feb 14th, “The thing that really grinds my gears is that you are sitting on 16 billion! You only paid out 3.5 billion to 168,000 claimants…now 1/2 of those are gone because they were desperate and took the quick pay.”
I could continue in this vein, but you get the idea.
Feinberg also combats Strange’s accusation that the GCCF is paying people to go away, that the GCCF is working diligently to protect BP and secure releases for their liability. Feinberg writes how nothing could be further from the truth, that these release are designed to “bring closure to the prospect of endless litigation which is not beneficial either to claimants or the public interest.”
He neglects to mention litigation is also not beneficial to BP.
Nobody likes to go to court Ken, it is a long, drawn out process, but the idea that you are attempting to keep people out of court to give them closure would assume they have otherwise been “made whole.” Seeing how this is far from the case, your suggestion is condescending on two levels: the first being Gulf Coast residents can’t decide for themselves what constitutes closure and the second being people would be so stupid as to not see the waivers as ultimately saving British Petroleum a whole hell of a lot of money.
Next, Strange accused Feinberg of making meager payouts on final claims. Feinberg defends this by once again throwing out large numbers that don’t hold up to some simple math. He says the GCCF has paid $688 million dollars to 28,000 Alabamans. Okay, but this averages out to under $24,000 dollars per claim, a sum Feinberg calls “not an insignificant amount.” I would argue, like Strange, that it is quite insignificant as a large percentage of those claims are not individual claims, but business claims which receive much higher payouts and drive that average up. The future of the Gulf is unknown and the simple idea that these amounts, these averages will compensate for all present and future losses when twenty years after the Exxon Valdez, some industries have yet to rebound is again, laughable.
Feinberg points out that anyone can turn down his offer or appeal it to the Coast Guard. 467 people have tried this and 467 people have been denied, something Feinberg believes shows his process to be fair. Perhaps, or it might also show the Coast Guard is equally stingy and working with the same flawed recovery statistics as the GCCF, recovery statistics that claim the Gulf’s environment will be made whole inside of two years. This is doubtful, as a multitude of independent scientists suggest, and honestly, the Coast Guard has not been a shiny beacon of legitimacy throughout the past year…from Thad Allen’s sweeping pronouncement that they weren’t banning the reporters they were banning, to the way they stated Corexit was no longer being used when it was, to the way they accepted BP’s vastly flawed flow-rates before the well was capped, flow-rates that slowed down the spill response. In fact, I’d be curious to see any example where the Coast Guard didn’t give in to British Petroleum on pretty much anything over the past year, so why would the appeals process be any different? And this doesn’t even touch on the false hope involved in telling claimants if they don’t like the GCCF offer, they can appeal to a different body, a Coast Guard commission that has never ruled in any claimant’s favor.
Ken, isn’t that just kind of rubbing their faces in it?
Next, Strange expressed dismay about Feinberg’s continued inference of fraud being evident in claims made to the GCCF. Feinberg rebuts this by writing the GCCF has sent 1,035 claimants suspected of fraud to the Justice Department, “not an insignificant number.” Actually Ken, it is. Numerous studies have shown that after any major disaster, on average, 10% of claims in any claims process can be considered fraudulent. There have been over 480,000 claims made to the GCCF in total which would make the percentage of suspected fraudulent claims you forwarded to the DOJ ring in at far less than 1%.
Fraud is not a problem in the Gulf Coast claims process, regardless of suggestion by Feinberg, it merely serves as cover to the GCCF’s flaws.
Strange also wonders why Ken Feinberg now omits from his press releases the fact that 310,000 people were denied during the EAP process; the Attorney General further calls this omission another example of the GCCF not being “completely forthcoming.” Well okay, I’ll give that one to Feinberg. He pretty much states these numbers are common knowledge, and they are, so why would he have reason to hide them? The only thing I might consider is that when it comes to framing narratives, and Feinberg is indeed trying to promote the narrative that the GCCF is fair, he probably doesn’t want to start his recitation of final and interim claim numbers by reminding everyone just how many EAP’s the GCCF turned down. 310,000 denials with little to no transparency can cast a long shadow over a conversation on fairness.
Finally, Strange demands more transparency.
He wants Feinberg to release the amount of damages people are claiming versus the amount of damages the GCCF has offered to pay. In response Feinberg writes, “the release of such data would be a useless exercise; indeed it would be counterproductive.”
Useless and counterproductive to who? The GCCF? BP?
He goes on to cite a couple of examples where people have filed ridiculous claims, one person requesting the full $20 billion dollars while another claimant filed damages for $11 billion. Agreed Ken, those claims are ridiculous, but seeing as I can figure that out I’m pretty sure you can trust everybody else to see it as well. You write that people typically file for more damages than they can prove. and this is also true, but what Strange would appear to be looking for is a pattern of low-balling claims, and when your amounts offered are indeed meager, wanting to see this information in order to accurately evaluate your process seems entirely justified.
As I have written before, when it comes to the GCCF, full transparency is warranted. Transparency demonstrates a commitment to justice, to confidence, to credibility, but your credibility has been shown time and time again to be lacking, especially when Judge Barbier ruled you are not “independent” of BP as you so loudly trumpeted for months to anyone within ear shot of the Gulf Coast.
In fact, Barbier ruled you to be a “hybrid entity” of BP, and your claims to transparency are also a hybrid of the real thing, kind of…but not really.
The time where you could be taken at face value, where you could decide what is in the “public interest,” or how the release of information would be nothing more than a “useless exercise” are over. In fact, one could argue, as Strange does in a roundabout way, the only “useless exercise” going on in the Gulf is when you base any pro-GCCF arguments on your word.
Again, from the GCCF comments section come these words from an e-mail sent to you on Feb 14th, “I believe you should revert to the old BP calculations, they seemed fair and well thought out.” Now that is an impressive feat. Ken, once you were a self proclaimed savior to the Gulf Coast, but your Gulf Coast Claims Facility is so backwards, one claimant actually feels BP was the fair one, all along…
Methinks Strange is correct in his words.
Your’s are just one more empty harangue intended to deflect the reponsibility of failing the Gulf Coast.