Feinberg seeks to reassure spill claim recipients

By Anna Driver

KENNER, Louisiana (BestGrowthStock) – The incoming head of Gulf of Mexico oil-spill claims sought to reassure skeptical Louisiana residents on Wednesday that processing their claims will be faster and better once he takes over from BP Plc next week.

Wednesday was the last day people who suffered losses related to the oil spill could file a claim with BP. On Monday BP hands the process over to the independent Gulf Coast Claims Facility, headed by attorney Kenneth Feinberg.

“At 12:01 a.m. on Monday morning, there are no more BP claims, it’s over,” a feisty Feinberg told a packed town hall meeting to discuss the transition. “I am independent, I am working for you.”

Fishermen and others who have been unable to make a living since BP’s well blowout on April 20 caused a rush of toxic crude into the Gulf of Mexico have complained the payment process under the company is too slow and claims paid do not fully reimburse losses.

But now, Feinberg promises to pay legitimate emergency claims to individuals within 48 hours and business claims within seven days.

“BP says don’t worry but I’m very worried right now,” Thien Nguyen, a New Orleans resident who has fished in the gulf for 27 years, said while waiting for the meeting to start.

Nguyen has received three emergency $5,000 payments from BP so far, but he worries because each check has come later and later each month. Before the spill, he had $60,000 in savings, but now that account is down to $2,000.

“How am I going to pay my bills, my mortgage?” Nguyen asked.

BP set up a $20 billion fund at the insistence of President Barack Obama to pay claims related to the spill. So far, the oil company’s claims team has paid out $368 million.

Feinberg, an attorney who was the U.S. government’s choice to lead the spill claims process, was in charge of compensating victims’ families after the September 11, 2001, attacks and presided over executive pay at bailed-out Wall Street firms.

Troy Crain, a fisherman from Rigolets, Louisiana, left the meeting impressed with Feinberg.

“He’s optimistic,” Crain said. “It does build your confidence a lot.”

(Edited by Eileen O’Grady and Bill Trott)

Feinberg seeks to reassure spill claim recipients