BP Oil Spill Claims Czar Goes on the Defensive

Kenneth Feinberg, administrator of the <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/BP-Gulf-Oil-Property-Claims-Rental-Property-Lawsuit-Lawyer-Class-Action">BP oil spill claims fund, is defending his work. In papers filed with the federal court in New Orleans that is overseeing BP oil spill lawsuits, Feinberg claimed openness of the BP oil spill claims process has been “nothing short of extraordinary” and his efforts to compensate victims have exceeded what is required by federal law.

Feinberg and the $20 billion BP-funded Gulf Coast Claims Facility have come under criticism of late for taking too long to pay on oil spill claims. Many have also questioned his independence from BP because it is paying his law firm a sizable fee to run the fund. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, the federal judge overseeing BP oil spill lawsuits in New Orleans, even ordered BP to stop characterizing Feinberg as “neutral.” The judge also ruled BP must disclose in all communications that the Claims Facility and Feinberg are acting on behalf of BP in administering the fund.

According to an Associated Press report, Judge Barbier is now weighing whether Feinberg, as BP’s agent, and the oil company are complying with the Oil Pollution Act. Plaintiffs’ lawyers in the lawsuits want the judge to order changes to a form Feinberg requires final payment recipients to sign, which stipulates that they give up their rights to sue BP.

As we’ve reported previously, Feinberg has also been criticized by BP. Last week, the oil company posted a strongly-worded 24-page document on its website complaining that Feinberg’s proposed settlements are too generous because the “planned payments far exceed the extent of likely future damages because they overstate the potential for future loss.”

According to rules Feinberg released last month, settlements paid out by the fund would be double the 2010 losses for most of those filing claims, while Oyster harvesters and oyster processors would be offered four times their losses. That payout plan is based on estimates of environmental and economic recovery for the region – projected for 2012 – commissioned by Feinberg, The New York Times said.

For its part, BP places future losses in the range of just 25 percent to 50 percent of claimants’ 2010 losses, according to the Times.

So far, some of the only praise Feinberg has received has come from a group of attorneys who are reportedly close to settling hundreds of BP oil spill claims on behalf of their clients.

“Mr. Feinberg has been extremely responsive and expeditious in working through what is a tremendous amount of information and cases,” Jerrold Parker, an attorney with Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, one of the law firms with that group, recently told the Associated Press. “Given the complexity and enormity of this situation, I think Mr. Feinberg has done a tremendous job.”

According to a statement <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/">Parker Waichman Alonso LLP issued on Monday, the group, which also includes the Law Offices of Daniel E. Becnel, Jr. and Neblett, Beard & Arsenault LLP, has already recovered millions of dollars from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility on behalf of its clients.

Parker Waichman Alonso LLP’s statement said the firm and its co-counsels were still available to help Gulf Coast property and business owners who have sustained significant lost income and reduced property values to their condominiums, hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts, summer homes, office buildings and other properties as a result of the BP oil spill. The statement also said that denied BP oil spill claims could be resubmitted to the group, and Parker Waichman Alonso LLP and its partner firms would work to get legitimate claims reopened and reexamined.

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