Sink joins McCollum in demand for revamp of BP claims czar processby Dara Kam | August 23rd, 2010
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink wants oil disaster claims czar Ken Feinberg to revamp his process for paying individuals and business owners who say BP’s massive oil disaster caused them to lose revenues or suffer other damages.
Sink, who traveled frequently to the Panhandle to meet with Feinberg and business owners who’s claims languished in BP’s hands, and fellow Cabinet member Attorney General Bill McCollum both accuse Feinberg of creating a process that’s less friendly to oil spill victims than federal law.
Feinberg has “taken an extremely restrictive view as to who is eligible for recovery,” Sink, a Democrat who is the presumptive nominee for governor, wrote to Feinberg today, the kick-off of his Gulf Coast Claims Facility that will handle the claims.
“In my opinion, the GCCF rules must be rewritten in favor of those who were harmed by this catastrophe, as opposed to those who caused it,” Sink wrote.
BP and President Barack Obama hired Feinberg to take over BP’s botched claims system. The Boston lawyer will be paid out of the interest from the $20 billion account BP is paying into over four years to pay the claims.
McCollum, a Republican running for governor in a tight primary against political outsider Rick Scott, also criticized Feinberg’s system, calling it onerous for Floridians and saying it circumvents the federal Oil Pollution Act that is supposed to protect victims of disasters like BP’s.
Feinberg, who received high marks for his management of the compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, defended his process for giving emergency six-month payments to businesses and individuals and a separate system that will give one-time, lump-sum settlements to those who promise not to sue BP.
The GCCF is completely voluntary, Feinberg says, and anyone who thinks they can get a better pay out by suing BP and having their lawsuit tied up in the courts for years if not decades should do that instead.
Here’s some of the differences between Feinberg’s protocol and the federal OPA:
*Proximate causation. Feinberg requires that claimants prove a geographic connection with the oil spill, a higher burden of proof than OPA. Under OPA, claimants merely need to show that their damages “resulted from” the oil spill.
*Single final settlement. OPA gives claimants the ability to sue for additional damages not included in their paid claims. Feinberg’s process requires those taking final settlements to give up their right to sue.
*Period of limitations. Feinberg is giving claimants three years to get a settlement from the GCCF. The federal law sets a three-year time limit for lawsuits but is broader because it gives victims more time to figure out what the long-term impacts of their damages would be.