BP claims czar ‘making amends,’ won’t hire more adjustersby Dara Kam | September 17th, 2010
Ken Feinberg, in charge of doling out billions of dollars in claims to victims of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, said he won’t hire more adjusters to speed up the process but acknowledged his system is not without problems.
“It is true that we’re not moving as fast as we should,” Feinberg said.
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Gov. Charlie Crist this week asked Feinberg to appear before them at the next Cabinet meeting to explain why so many Panhandle business owners haven’t seen a dime since Feinberg took over BP’s maligned claims system on Aug. 23.
“We can do better. The criticism of the governor and Sink justifiable. But we’re making amends. And we’re improving the system,” Feinberg said.
Crist and Sink also demanded that he immediately hire more adjusters to help speed up the process.
“I don’t need to hire more people. It’s not a resource issue. It’s an internal ability of us to process claims as fast as we can. Simply throwing more people at the problem won’t solve it,” Feinberg said.
More than 52,000 individuals and business owners have submitted claims since Feinberg took over last month, he said, including thousands that are undocumented or suspicious.
“I am as lenient and generous as I can be” but the “ocumentation is often non-existent or woefully inadequate,” Feinberg said.
Part of the hang-up is BP’s fault, because the oil giant “delayed extensively in transferring documentation that it had in its files,” Feinberg said. He said he believes he has the documentation and does not think the files were lost.
Feinberg said he expects to catch up on the 15,000 claims in the queue in a little more two weeks.
Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility is processing 1,000 claims a day and the Boston lawyer has already authorized payments for nearly 18,500 claimants totaling more than $205 million in less than a month, he said. That’s nearly half as much as BP paid out over four months, Feinberg pointed out.
“More resources are not the problem,” he added.
Feinberg is adding a new call center to handle problems for people who’ve already filed claims and haven’t received payment or have questions about how much they were paid, he said.
And Feinberg said he will bring a team of specialists to Florida sometime within the next few weeks to address individual complaints as he did this week in Orange Beach, Ala.
Feinberg, who met with Attorney General Bill McCollum on Wednesday before his town hall meeting in Alabama, said he is considering appointing a Florida point-person to represent the GCCF, something Sink and McCollum have asked for since BP started processing claims shortly after the April 20th Deepwater Horizon oil rig blast began spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
A Florida ombudsman is an excellent idea, an exasperated Sink said.
“Whatever it takes. What we have now is not working. I’m very hopeful that finally
I’m tired of having to write a letter every week. I want some action. I want some action. You can say as many words as you want to say. I want to see results.
So I’m waiting,” Sink said.