Ken Feinberg, British Petroleum employee and steward of the BP claims fund wrote himself a little editorial the other day in Bloomberg Businessweek titled: How to Give Away $5 Billion. The article came complete with an illustration of a man, presumably Ken, holding a money bag while outstretched, demanding hands come in from outside the border of the drawing and there, in a nutshell, is everything that’s wrong with the GCCF and Ken’s dismissive attitudes.
The people of the Gulf Coast are not looking for a hand out.
They are looking to be compensated for damages from the worst environmental disaster to ever hit this country.
In his rather self-congratulatory editorial, Ken writes the best way to give out $5 billion dollars is with “speed and fairness and consistency,” which not coincidentally are three of the biggest complaints about the claims process: questions about its fairness and consistency concealed behind an utter lack of transparency and the slow allocation of payments while people suffer untold financial hardships.
Really Ken…people aren’t clamoring for the GCCF to be audited because they are satisfied with the process, at ease with what you’ve done and are doing, many in fact are rather angry, which is why it’s no wonder you’ve learned to live with “the potshots and the criticism.” You’d have to be used to it by now. They’re coming and have come from the US Justice Department, politicians both local and federal, various attorneys general and claimants across four states.
Ken writes, “You try to err on the side of being generous without being Santa Claus. Anyone can give money away,” and that would be quite correct, anybody can. Anyone can also claim to be the second coming of Christ when they came down to the Gulf in June of last year making all kinds of promises about speed and fairness and generosity only to see these promises disintegrate into the reality that you were getting more than you bargained for. It was and is a big job, Ken and a difficult one, but when you set people up to fail with causality in health claims, when you make people wait for interim claims while completing the easier, less lucrative quick claims, when you force people to gamble with their future by signing legal waiver forms and when people become so fed up with your claims process they just want to take the money and run, not from a sense of satisfaction and being made whole, but from a sense of disgust with another corporation and their henchmen who screwed an entire region…Ken, you’re not Santa Claus, you’re not even a lowly elf, you’re a wealthy, self-satisfied Boston attorney whose making quite a tidy profit for himself in the claims business.
Finally, Ken adds:
“These programs should be the exception rather than the rule. Bad things happen to good people every day, but I didn’t see a program after Katrina or Joplin. Policymakers need to be wary about doing an end run around the traditional way of resolving disputes in this country.”
What the hell does that even mean?
Here’s a thought, maybe the reason you didn’t see a claims process after Joplin and Katrina is 1. its pretty fucking hard to take a tornado to court and 2. Taking the Army Corps of Engineers to court for the failure of the levees has been near impossible and if going after Katrina itself, well, see #1 again, only replace tornado with hurricane. British Petroleum’s poor management and the resulting explosion of the Deepwater Horizon was not a natural disaster, it was man-made, and came as a result of time-saving and profit-seeking by an oil company that was already making money hand over fist.
Greed, Ken…simple greed…that’s why there is a claims process.
Rather than trying to publish your bullshit at Bloomberg where maybe you hoped people wouldn’t see it, why don’t you hold another town hall in the Gulf so you can tell the people to their face what a great job you’ve done.
Hell, you can even bring your security team, again.
Have a nice day.
Especially to Mark Moseley at The Lens for pointing out to yours truly Feinberg’s lovely gem of an article.
David Pitofsky, Feinberg’s attorney, stated yesterday in a court filing it is their belief the GCCF already has adequate oversight so there is no need for the court to order any additional supervision, “The GCCF is already effectively supervised by the Coast Guard and several committees of Congress, and it has voluntarily agreed with the Department of Justice to an independent audit of the claims process,” Pitofsky said in the filing.
Yes, but this citizen would simply say the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
But first, let’s take a look at Feinberg’s friends:
The Coast Guard, while an admirable institution, seemed to really go out of their way to do the bidding of British Petroleum throughout this entire disaster. BP, Ken, that same company you seem to really hate admitting is your employer.
Congress, the only things Congress can agree on is how much they hate the other side of the aisle, a hatred eclipsed only by their apparent hatred of any legislation that might protect anything but their own ass. Environmental regulations, environmental oversight or the oversight of the GCCF, not really up there on their list of priorities, not when there is an entire nation of poor people they can willfully screw over. Ken, in their eyes, you’re small potatoes.
As far as this audit you and US Attorney General Eric Holder came up with, while I applaud its idea, I question its method, simply because it was something you and he agreed to behind closed doors and we still don’t know its range and/or scope, nor do we know if its findings will have any teeth beyond making things uncomfortable for you, Ken, for maybe a news cycle, before you go back to business as usual.
So, those are your friends. That is the oversight you have agreed to, and that is the oversight you and your lawyers say is enough.
With this oversight in place, we already have complaints from across the Gulf Coast how the GCCF isn’t doing its job, leaving too many claimants behind, from health claims to subsistence claims to interim claims…from a low-balling of final claim offers to coercion through financial desperation into accepting said offers or the many, many quick claim offers you’ve already paid out, all while signing away any rights to future compensation.
You say: not enough documentation, no causal evidence of health maladies, and the offers are fair…and that is all you say, except maybe the occasional caveat or apology, with no resulting correction of what you apologized for. And again, this is with the oversight you already have. So why do many across the Gulf Coast think you need more? Well, beyond everything stated above, because the enemy of my enemy is my friend, or in other words:
When it comes to oversight you haven’t agreed to, you need more precisely because you think you do have enough.
Rep. Joe Bonner of Alabama, member of the House Appropriations Committee called for an independent audit of the GCCF this week, something many Gulf Coast residents have been wanting to see happen for some time now. Bonner made this request to the Justice Department, and the request has been included in legislation that was approved on Wednesday.
“As we approach the one-year anniversary of the creation of the GCCF, many South Alabama businesses and individuals are still complaining about unfair treatment of their oil spill damage claims by the BP-financed fund that has been tightly controlled by administrator Ken Feinberg,” Congressman Bonner said. “With BP now calling for the GCCF to wind down payments, it is imperative that an accurate accounting of Mr. Feinberg’s claims system be made public. Last month, I met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in Orange Beach personally asking him to order an impartial audit of the GCCF. Today, the House Appropriations Committee also called upon the Justice Department to begin the process of an independent review of the claims process.”
And speaking of independent audits, can’t we also make a call for an audit of BP’s insistence that the Gulf is all good, that the businesses and people no longer need the assistance of future compensation? As most people are aware, British Petroleum recently requested the GCCF stop paying all future claims in the Gulf of Mexico because things have recovered so damned well…
“Crude oil continues to wash ashore along the Gulf of Mexico coast a year after BP stopped the flow from its damaged Macondo well, which caused the worst U.S. offshore spill,” government officials said…submerged mats of congealed oil, often resembling a mousse, are a source of the tar balls, Hein said. The areas with the most oil are Louisiana coastal marshes…”
“Reporting on the bayou outside of Hopedale, La, Eric Guzman, a shrimp boat captain says, “BP likes for people to think that the skimming got rid of all the oil,” he said. “They don’t want you to think about how most of the oil went down to the bottom. We were dead set against them using those dispersants but they didn’t listen and they did it anyway… Guzman said the shrimp business has been hurt because, even though there is shrimp that have not been contaminated by the oil, people are afraid to take the chance on buying them. Prices have dropped, despite the smaller supplies, and people are going out of business. A bait shop operated by a shrimp boat captain interviewed by the People’s World right after the spill is going out of business.”
BP maintains the seafood is safe to eat, and this is part of the reason they also say claims should stop being paid, but despite the all clear by the FDA, something funny’s going on in the water as evidenced by “…countless reports coming from up and down the Gulf Coast…the most troubling narratives come from local fishermen, crabbers and oyster harvesters – who are encountering not only dramatically smaller catches but also visibly sick, deformed and oiled seafood from Louisiana’s Grand Isle to the Florida panhandle. And we’ve got photos to prove it (see link).”
The reports include catches down 70%, businesses closing, copper colored stains, holes and burns in the crabs’ shells. A crab fisherman, Bruce Gerra reports: “Crabs have been coming up dead, discolored, or riddled with holes since last year’s spill. Now Guerra, and many of the crabbers that work for him, said they’re trapping 75 percent fewer crabs than they were pre-oil spill.”
Also recently, both Sen. Bill Nelson and Sen. Marco Rubio, both from Florida weighed in on how they feel about BP’s recovery estimations. Writes Sen Nelson: “BP doesn’t need to be protected from the citizenry. It’s the other way around…BP made a commitment… People are still hurting. And we don’t know what will happen in the future, plus there’re still claims in an appeals process and large claims that haven’t even been submitted yet.” Nelson said he thinks it could take years before the full extent of damages are known and based on that alone, BP should not be allowed to change the claims process.” Cue Sen Rubio, “BP, from a corporate perspective, is trying to get out of here as quickly as they can…they are trying to disengage from this process as soon as they can and I think it is incumbent on us policymakers to make sure that doesn’t happen and that BP fulfills its obligations to this region.”
Senator Rubio also held a recent meeting in Pensacola. Sixty people showed up to let him know just how badly things were going with a certain Mr. Feinberg. Bob Zales, president of the National Association of Charter Boat Operators summed things up rather nicely, “To many of us, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility is a massive failure,” he went on to say claims payments have been plagued by months long delays and “ridiculous offers.” Seconding this was Joe Gilchrist, co-owner of Flora-Bama Lounge and Package, who said many frustrations stem from a murky and inconsistent claims process, “A lot of arbitrary decisions are being made by people nobody can find or hold accountable.”
That sounds like those all too familiar GCCF transparency problems.
But back to BP where the oil company is making those self-serving claims: all is well, steadily getting better, they actually use the words “remarkably improving,” to describe the Gulf Coast. Bob Dudley, CEO of BP had this to say about it, including their new plans for drilling safety, “BP’s commitment in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon incident is not only to restore the economic and environmental conditions among the affected areas of the Gulf Coast, but also to apply what we have learned to improve the way we operate.”
Making things whole, again…wonderful soundbite but poor in practice. Months ago, BP said claimants were being paid too much in damages and now, BP says claimants should stop being paid altogether, even while businesses continue to close as a result of this spill. And when it comes to statements about the safety of their drilling practices, be skeptical, be very skeptical. It’s a sure bet they were talking up their safety practices before the refinery blew in Texas City, killing 15 and injuring 170, just as I’m sure they were maintaining the safety of their drilling on the Deepwater Horizon before it exploded and killed eleven more.
Bob Dudley, like Ken Feinberg can say all he wants to, but the words just aren’t too credible, not yet, not by a long shot.
Now, it’s time for BP to prove a few things, prove they will do what they’ve been saying all along, spend more time making the Gulf Coast whole and their practices safe, less time making whole their profits. After all, from what I’ve read about the money made by the oil industry, they all got that whole profit thing covered by a mile…
In some recent promotional items for the University of Pennsylvania – Wharton’s 2011 Leadership Conference, Ken Feinberg lets us all know about the risks of leadership, and he says:
“You have to define risk with each situation. When I pay a fisherman, I find a payment that ends their concern, but what is the likely risk that the Gulf is safe? Have I factored into that reward a good understanding of future risk to fishing in the Gulf? Inherent is the notion of a substantive definition of risk…When administering the 9/11 fund, it turned out that my evaluation of risk was poorly done — I underestimated the support of the victim’s families and the public in general. I evaluated correctly with the BP case — I’m a human pinata.”
He evaluated “correctly”…he “ends the concerns” of the fisherman…he has factored into the “reward” a good understanding of future risk to fishing in the Gulf.
Oh, and he’s a “human pinata.”
Okay, well, let me take a few more whacks at Mr. Feinberg…
In Ken’s claims payment methodology, he takes the rather controversial standpoint that everything in the Gulf will be back to normal by 2013, and in August of that year his plan is to close up the GCCF shop for good…
…officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said assessing the damage from the BP spill is processing but that it would be another several years before a full evaluation is complete…
And if everything is improving, fishing wise in the Gulf, why do I read:
“Hundreds of angry shrimpers rallied on the steps of the state Capitol today. The focus of their anger: Ken Feinberg and BP. “Our livelihoods are at stake,” Acy Cooper told the gathered crowd. Cooper is the vice president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, the organization that organized Wednesday’s rally. “None of us are going to make it through the winter time if we keep getting these prices. None of us.”
And if the businesses are all coming back, why am I receiving comments on this blog saying:
“I was one of the top yacht brokers in the panhandle. Annual growth of 35% to 65% annually. While yacht sales are up nationally ours are down 85% over 1st quarter of 2010. BP/Ken says that this is due to the poor economy. What they are doing to people and business here on the Gulf Coast is criminal. Why isn’t THIS on FOX or CNN? The news loves to talk about negatives like the spill but doesn’t seem to care about the actual people or the families they have impacted.”
You know what, Ken?
Sometimes people feel like pinatas not because they are making the hard choices, not because they are demonstrating great leadership, sometimes they feel like a pinata because they deserve to feel like a pinata. It certainly isn’t because you made “correct” evaluations with the oil spill. And judging by your quote at the beginning of this post, it makes me wonder if you consider your mistakes during the 9/11 fund to be less of what you did or didn’t do, but instead the fact you underestimated how many people were paying attention to the mistakes you feel you made:
“When administering the 9/11 fund, it turned out that my evaluation of risk was poorly done – I underestimated the support of the victim’s families and the public in general.”
Which begs the next question…if more people were paying attention to what you are or are not doing in the Gulf, would the expanding number of people who feel they are falling through the cracks then become mistakes? Do you consider yourself error-free down here simply because the people outside of the Gulf haven’t noticed? Or maybe a better way of putting it…Ken, if a tree falls in the woods and shatters your ego, and no one is around to hear it shatter, would it still make a sound?
Continuing on in the promotional materials, Feinberg also stresses the following characteristics of strong leadership when it comes to managing risk:
Convey a sense of certainty
Be transparent — “The more sunlight I let into the room, the easier it is,” he said.
Consistency — no bias or favoritism
Flexibility — keep an open mind
Use sound judgement — “Give the people impacted by your decisions a say.”
Delegate to good people — “Staff is the key.”
So, how did Ken do?
Convey a sense of certainty:
Yes, Ken has certainly conveyed a sense of certainty. When political leaders and claimants across the Gulf Coast region, and the Justice Department asked him to make certain changes in the way the GCCF operates, be it the speed of processing claims, openness with the claims process or not closing down the claims centers, Ken has certainly conveyed a resounding clear response, “No.”
As I have previously written, see here, here, here, and here, Feinberg and the GCCF have never been about transparency. In fact, everybody from Congress to the Justice Department to the Attorney Generals of Alabama and Mississippi have been demanding more transparency, to which Feinberg says something along the lines of “Yes I could do better and I promise to do better,” but then he does nothing. As I’ve also previously commented, It would seem Feinberg is quite pleased with the job he has done, so pleased you would think he would take up Alabama Attorney General, Luther Strange on his offer of choosing a neutral party to look at the GCCF books, a confidential neutral party who then would report back to Strange an unbiased view of just how fair, impartial and accurate the GCCF process has been, but this would be another point where Feinberg has conveyed a certain sense of “No.” This is unfortunate. Until GCCF transparency dramatically improves, all we have is Feinberg’s word for it, which leads recent situations such as Feinberg making statements to the press claiming he has received no claims for health damages, only to have this statement undone a day or two later by himself. Complaints from claimants continue to come in via the press, editorials, and the comments sections of blogs, yet Feinberg’s transparency does not improve.
Mr. Feinberg could certainly be accused of a lack of consistency, and also of exhibiting bias and favoritism. One need only look so far as the whole working for British Petroleum thing, or remember when he wasn’t paying any final claims yet, except the $10 million claim he paid to a certain business partner of British Petroleum, at BP’s request, while everybody else had to wait? And even now, interim claims are not being paid while quick pays and final claims are, the two types of claims which most benefit his employer due to the signing away of the legal right to sue, so required to receive these payments.
Keeping an open mind…like when he bases his payment methodology primarily on the work of one scientist who even disputes his own timeline conclusions that all will be back to pre-spill harvests by 2013. It takes a very open mind to ignore the scientific consensus predicting either: 1.) things will take many years to resolve in the Gulf, or 2.) it is impossible to know how long it will take. Ken kept an open mind through it all, until he found Dr. John W. Tunnel, Jr. who set the 2013 benchmark, though in his own report he writes “Realistically, the true loss to the ecosystem and fisheries may not be accurately known for years, or even decades…”
Use sound judgement:
Feinberg reports sound judgement to be “Give the people impacted by your decisions a say.” Okay, one might give this one to Ken. It was he who held all those town hall meetings where he gave dozens of people dozens of opportunities to give their opinions. Oh, and remember the public comment period for his methodology? Yes, that lasted two weeks and Feinberg swore that he read them all. Yes, Feinberg gave lots of people their say…course, I might argue that a better characteristic of leadership would be to not only give people opportunity to have their say, one might also want to listen too. Yes, it would seem listening would be very key…
Delegate to good people:
Like Guidepost Solutions? The ones who are doing the investigations on people who applied for quick payments despite quick payments supposedly being “no questions asked?” Also, I might suggest that you can delegate all you like, but if you close the offices so claimants don’t get any face time with the “good people,” you only set up another layer of frustration for those who are trying to be made right.
Ken’s ideas on what makes a good leader are certainly sound. I can’t nor will I argue too much with his choice of characteristics, but I do question the implication that Ken himself has demonstrated this kind of leadership. That is understandably being questioned throughout the Gulf Coast, as it should…
If the need to question it did not exist, would any of us be reading articles such as:
It would appear what Feinberg knows best about risk is how exactly to personify it to those who come to him for help, help in being made whole by British Petroleum, the company that pays his salary, and that is simply not leadership, that is abandoning ideas such as fairness, justice and judgement.
Though I’m thinking of starting my own charter school, but more about that later…
I know its been a while, and I might apologize if I believed in such sentiment but I don’t…so, another legislative session comes and goes, and I’m caught in the city in that early summer dry spell…why do contract hits slow down in the early part of the summer? I don’t know, your guess is good as mine, but during the down time I’ve been taking a few weeks to myself, sitting by the river, drinking a good strong cup of coffee and watching the barges and hey, how about the Mississippi a few weeks back? I mean, damn…sometimes being an assassin just don’t do a bit of good, no matter how expert one might be. It’s not like I could have disposed of the water, though I will admit, one drunken night after a few, few too many, I did try…and if you were near the Quarter, you know what I’m talking about, kind of risky going without the silencer, but obviously I wasn’t making the best of decisions that night…if I had, I wouldn’t have tried shooting a river in the first place…fair enough? After many Abitas though, lots of dumb shit starts making sense…s’why I don’t drink for the most part.
Anyways…back to the legislative session…mixed bag this year, though slightly better than expected…and overall, let’s take a look at some of the good and the bad and most importantly, look at how I can make this work for me…and working for me, that would seem to be the theme of this years session…I mean really, a four cent cigarette tax extension vetoed because Jindal swore not to raise taxes? The only reason for that foolishness is aspirations to a rabid GOP base and a ride on the Romney machine…unless Jindal’s courting the pro-cancer crowd, and that could very well be, he is a Republican and cancer is a money maker for pharmaceutical companies and hospitals and Jindal, he likes himself some hospitals…even if they don’t have the necessary funding.
Okay, okay…sidetracked again…
Did I mention I might be starting my own charter school?
Yeah, I get 49% of the seats on the board…and I’m betting my 49% will easily dictate to the other 51, we’ll be far better armed. Gonna call it the “Jackal School of the Arts and Assassination.” Normal curriculum, except we’ll be pretty pro-science. No creationism at the Jackal, and no “Intelligent Design” either, and a whole lot more about climate change…know what else? Ronald Reagan’s name will be taboo at the Jackal, and so will George W. Bush, who will be known simply as “Treason” so at the Jackal, if you mention treason, you’re talking Texas. My school, my rules and if you don’t like it, too bad, don’t enroll here. If you don’t come to the front doors as a friend, don’t come at all, seriously, don’t come…but really, is anyone stupid enough to come to the Jackal School of the Arts and Assassination with complaints?
If so, you will be outgunned.
I pay the bills, I set the template…oh, and all those teachers fired after Katrina…front of the line to apply, if so interested, so thanks to Baton Rouge and Bobby for this corporate charter thing (the possibilities) and don’t worry guys and gals, there could be worse schools then mine as a result…you might get stuck with Starbucks High or maybe the Dow Chemical School of Pleasant Poison, Halliburton Cementing Central or even the Goldman Sachs Institute of Fuck You, America.
We all know many charter schools deny entry to those less fortunate or those with behavioral problems and they wreck much of the admirable work of those so dedicated to, and inside the public schools through deprivation, and I wish I could do more to right this wrong, but what I can do is promise you that at the Jackal, we’ll take anybody, and in a few years of training a few handpicked students and teachers, well…plots have a way of hatching and plots, they can bust open all the school doors for everybody…at least that’s what I’ve heard, you know, about plots and conspiracies and, and such…
Turns out I’m going to have to find another way to communicate with friends on the inside as Facebook appears out of the picture, but really, that’s neither here nor there since me and my ilk have dozens of guards on the take anyway and speaking of prison, would it surprise you to know of my humanitarian streak, to find out I sponsor several young adults at Delgado Community College? If it does, one might ask whether you live entirely in a world of black and white, you know, like Treason does. Grey my friends, this world is grey as a coming storm cloud which this tuition hike might be for me if it weren’t for the tax breaks my software business is going to get in the next fiscal year.
I tell ya, that Bobby…on and on about not raising taxes like with the cigarette thing…yet he raises school tuitions, well, what would you call that? It’s a tax ya fool, they just go under different names. Oh, and raising the fees for probation and parole…you know, we here in the field have noticed a trend of this as late nationwide and I gotta say, our contract fees are going up because of it, but it’s okay for us, I mean we have a marketable skill, one that grows more marketable each year but a lot of people coming out of the prisons don’t. So I get it, it’s easy to pick on prisoners, I mean who sticks up for ex-cons? Well, I’m an ex-con, and though I may be well past any probation or parole time myself, let me just say that finding a job with a record, no matter what anyone says about the legalities of it, discrimination happens and it’s often hard for those so unskilled to find a job carrying a record, so raising these fees on people just adds to the pressure…and rasing these fees? Again, fees are just another name for a tax, but since Bobby’s going for the GOP base, if there’s one thing we all know about the Grand Ol Party, they give a fuck about ex-cons…oh, and if there’s one place we know for sure these ex-cons can’t collect a pay check anymore, at least not one they can show Probation and Parole, it’s for the hard work they could have done at a synthetic marijuana or bath salts factory.
Way to narrow down the job prospects Baton Rouge…and while I’m sure many citizens of New Orleans were pleased that penalties were increased for businesses that hire illegal immigrants, especially when dealing with state contracts, I bet they would have been even happier if Jindal and co. would have also guaranteed things like benefits and livable wages and maybe even local hire laws…but hey, it’s a start right? I know I’m getting a bit sick of the Argentinian crew that moved in Uptown getting some of my contracts. I know they do it cheaper, but this is about quality… and in my trade quality typically wins out, just as I suspect it will eventually in this case. Just wait till one of those guys in the CBD gets fingered because an Argentine got careless and if there’s one thing we all have come to know about Argentinian assassins, eventually they all do get careless.
Course I’m sure I don’t have to explain that to anyone here…common knowledge complete, like the rats run into the Quarter from the river at dusk, or New Orleans needs more movie theaters.
Oh, and here’s a thought, maybe you jokers would have a better time of placing limits on pay packages for the higher ups in college administrations or getting state employees to contribute more to their pensions if you weren’t trying to screw with state employee’s healthcare or if you demanded similar limits on pay for CEO’s in the private sector. And speaking of bitching, let’s just touch base for a moment on transparency. Yeah, Jindal ran on it and yeah, now Jindal runs from it and maybe one of these days the transparency law gets passed, like after Jindal leaves Louisiana for the whole Vice-Presidency thing…dream a little dream…don’t care where you go Bobby so long as you’re gone, besides…putting you on a national stage to give speeches, well, let’s just say that unless you’re getting off a helicopter to exploit another disaster to appeal to your base while railing against the Feds, when it comes to the speeches, you kinda suck.
Wooden would be a compliment.
When it comes to transparency…the time has long since come. Much like BP, Feinberg and the whole lot of them, lack of transparency gives the appearance you’re hiding something and what with that whole Medicaid contract thing…and the Chaffe report, you’ve been hiding a lot. You know it, we know it…and the businesses reaping insider benefits, they know it a lot. Pretty sleazy Bobby, and pretty slick, like Mitt Romney’s hair products.
And also Bobby, let’s tell the truth about this legislative session, you’ve had some issues this time round.
Hell, your own House out-righted you, made you look positively spend-happy at times…so, thank God for the Senate, huh?
And what else…
Sell the prisons? Oops…
Try to raise tuition at all the state universities too? Oops…cough cough TAXES cough cough…
SUNO and UNO what?
Reauthorization in 2014 of your plan to screw the poor by turning over a lot of Louisiana’s Medicaid programs to private insurers, those bastions of corporate and civic responsibility…nothing says “we care” like corporations trying to turn a profit by turning down health procedures for the sick…
Anyways Bobby, the New Orleans Assassin would like to wish you better luck next year…cause I firmly believe next year you won’t be here, instead you’ll be vying for either a useless figurehead position like Vice President or you’ll be part of an administration hell bent on screwing the entire country the way you’ve been trying to screw Louisiana so see-ya…and honestly, I’m of two minds on that subject:
Civic-mindedly, it’s disappointing to grow older in your age of the robber-barons and their Republican, and not a few Democrat enablers.
And personally, Republican policies always create desperation, and desperation creates contract work…some of it pro-bono for those who couldn’t typically afford my services and on the flip side, those who can afford it, get more money to spend and spend they will…often on me and my services.
So, the way I see it, another middling legislative session, some of it good personally, but per usual, mostly bad for the majority of the state. In any case, like I mentioned it’s the slow season and in the spirit of helping those less fortunate, time for some pro-bono work, so I’ll be looking…just put the chalk “X”, last pew on the left at St. Louis Cathedral and then walk away…I’ll find you and we’ll talk.
Or, keep a look out for the signs announcing construction of the “Jackal School of the Arts and Assassination.”
I’ll be around…and oh, one last thing…a special thanks for the defeat of concealed weapons on college campuses. I’m not typically called to work at the universities, but if that day comes, well, call me more comfortable…
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.
Barack Obama finally releases the birth certificate, quelling a distraction to his campaign…and conspirators of the world begun their new narratives…it’s a fake or, if you read between the lines, it admits he worships Allah…
Give it time, it’ll happen.
And now, it’s Feinberg’s turn.
Ken has been claiming all along the reason he can’t pay claims is because claimants aren’t providing the documentation necessary. He says his motivation is not to save BP money, his payouts are not unequal, too small, or arbitrary. He claims people who challenge him, the claimants, the writers, the local politicians just don’t have the facts and don’t know what they’re talking about…
Then open it up, Ken.
Prove to us how wrong we are about you, the GCCF and British Petroleum.
From the Pensacola News Journal:
“So here is our suggestion to clear the air and brush away suspicion: Allow public scrutiny of the claims.
Not all the claims, of course. And names and businesses can and should be redacted.
But it is not unreasonable, we think, to have a designated university in each affected state audit the claims, compile the aggregate data of a scientific sample and release that data to the public. No names, no privacy violations, just raw data that would allow the public to see how efficiently — or not — the fund works.”
People believe you are stalling the claims.
Prove this is not the case.
Until you do, this issue will not go away, not even after you’re long gone from the Gulf Coast.
It’s time for the GCCF to release their birth certificate.
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.
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.
Weather’s pretty warm for a January, huh? Yeah, I was able to leave all the really cold weather clothes back at the hotel and…okay, first, allow me to introduce myself. Well, kind of introduce myself…
I work for a rather unpopular agency down in the Gulf Coast. Let’s call it an insurance company and yeah, turns out we’re about as good at our jobs, and as responsible as most insurance companies you’ve probably already dealt with…if you don’t know what I mean, just wait until something you love is destroyed, something you’ve insured, and give us a call. You’ll then quickly understand my point.
Our response to your insured loss will sound something like this:
“I try to explain to people that if we’ve made a mistake, we’ll review it as part of the process, we’ll fix it, and we’ll do our best to try and make people less frustrated with the status of their claim,” Feinberg said, “I can’t do more than that.”
And that gets me to my main point…you know those meetings, the ones that Ken Feinberg has been hosting all around the Gulf Coast the past couple of weeks? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those meetings were never about you. I mean, in some ways, yes, you were invited. You were given the chance to ask questions, for an hour anyways and you got an answer to your question…
“I’ve given hundreds of millions of dollars to the seafood industry. I may have made some mistakes, but I’m trying to get as much money to people who work in the seafood industry as possible.”
But when Feinberg said that, it wasn’t really your question he was answering.
He was answering the questions asked by the press.
He was answering the questions asked by the Court of Public Opinion.
And when I say public opinion, I mean the public opinion of every state in the union except Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. He already knows he’s lost you guys, that you’re turning on him, that you really don’t buy the things he says anymore, so he’s working the other 46 states hard. It’s simple math, really. Forty-six versus four.
Here’s another example of something he said at one of those meetings: “In five months we’ve paid out more than $3 billion. A good majority of the claimants have been treated fairly.”
See how that works?
He makes angry claimants look like whiners, even while he admits a mistake. He ain’t a high earning lawyer for nothing. To most people, three billion dollars is an amount of money they can’t really comprehend on any sort of realistic level, except to understand it’s a lot of money, far more than anything they’ll ever see. He then says this kind of money was paid out, by him and given to the “good majority” of people, who were “treated fairly.” Well, “good majority” sounds pretty good, sure, but when you look a bit closer a majority is only 51%. So what’s a “good” majority? Maybe 70%. Hell, let’s give him 75%. Okay, now consider that there were well over 400,000 claimants. So he basically says that in five months he and the GCCF treated 300,000 people “fairly,” but they really fucked over the other 100,000 people.
Let’s say you work on an assembly line at a Ford plant, and you do a good job on three of every four cars, and in a day you work on 40 cars. This means that you didn’t really bother with ten cars per day, forgetting the steering wheel, the ball joint, a series of screws that keeps the oil from flooding the engine.
Think you’d keep your job?
Me neither, but Feinberg not only thinks he should keep his job, he thinks people should cut him some slack, and praise him for the hard job he is undertaking.
Yeah, now you’re getting it.
He’s like that shitty insurance guy all over again, the one that says your house was damaged by flooding, not wind, despite the fact the wind pushed the water that broke the levees that flooded your home.
Now, I don’t blame you for thinking those meetings were for you, I mean, that’s what he said…but really, he didn’t come down there for input from you so he could change the system to work better, for you. He came down there to answer questions about your three options, to answer questions about time lines, to promise all of you that soon, any day now, really this time, he’s gonna be more transparent in the claims process. He came down there to take your abuse, to have the press watch the scene and see how 150, or 300, or 1000 people in a gymnasium were going to treat him shitty, gang up on him, so he then could do a press interview, shrug and say he’s doing the best he can.
Not a bad strategy, like I said, there’s a reason he makes the big bucks.
But how about this, the next time Feinberg holds a meeting, everybody in your community gets together and nominates one person.
And while you have all thousand people showing up outside the gymnasium to stand silent or calmly protest, only that “one person” actually goes inside for the meeting, and let his or her question take fifty minutes as he or she recites the complaints and problems of the entire community, one by one. That way, Feinberg doesn’t get to make you all look like the bully and then the press, know who they’re going to want to talk to when that meeting ends?
They’re going to want to talk to that one guy, and that one guy is going to be able to make Feinberg look like a completely out of touch asshole.
Will it change anything about the claims process?
Probably not, but it’ll sure make Feinberg look stupid, and at least that will be fun because if there’s a guy who needs to look stupid in front of the entire country, yeah, he’d be the one, he and the rest of his insurance ilk…it’s a thought. Anyways, I just felt I should send a letter, let you know what I think about these meetings and their true intent, kinda give you all a heads up, so to speak, not that many of you haven’t already figured this out. Let’s just say I was trying to help collect any of the stragglers…
Okay then, well, be well everybody, stay strong within your community, your family…look out for each other…