Most Gulf Oil Spill Claims Still Not Paid, Yet BP Set to Resume Dividends

Considering the slow payment of <"">BP oil spill claims, it’s not surprising that many claimants were less than thrilled to hear the oil giant had decided to resume paying dividends to shareholders. To them, the resumption of dividend payments is just another sign that BP cares very little for the Gulf Coast residents whose lives and livelihoods were disrupted by the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

According to a report from the Associated Press, BP will pay a dividend in March of 7 cents per ordinary share. Overall, it will shell out $1.25 billion to shareholders, only half of what it paid investors for the final quarter of 2009. In June 2010, BP had announced a suspension of dividends for the rest of that year on account of the spill.

That’s not sitting well with some Gulf Coast residents. “BP has so much money that we can’t really fathom it, but BP has to take care of its obligations to us,” Pass Christian, Miss., shrimper Bobby Barnett told the Associated Press. Barnett is still waiting for the Gulf Coast Claims Facility to act on his oil spill claim.

In the wake of the spill, BP agreed to provide at least $20 billion to compensate victims of the disaster. The fund is being administered by Kenneth Feinberg via the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. Claimants may accept interim payments without waiving any of their legal rights. Accepting a final payment of long-term damages requires claimants to release BP and any responsible parties. Claimants are able to Emergency Advance Payment(s) and reject the final payment if they find it to be unsatisfactory.

People like Barnett might not be so bothered by the dividend payment if the payment of BP oil spill claims weren’t so slow. According to a separate Associated Press report, BP has only paid one final settlement out of 91,000 final damage claims received. And that payment went to a company that has a business relationship with BP, and was paid by the Claims Facility after the oil company intervened on its behalf.

So far, the fund has paid out $3.3 billion in payments – nearly all interim Emergency Payments – to some 251,000 claimants. But the Associated Press also pointed out that that half of the 484,000 claims filed have been denied because of ineligibility or lack of documentation.

According to the Associated Press, Feinberg is preparing to make final payments to individuals and businesses. Any money left over is expected to be returned to BP.

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