Oil panel boiling mad over BP claims czar’s broken promisesby Dara Kam | September 1st, 2010
BP oil spill claims czar Ken Feinberg, hired by the oil giant and President Barack Obama to hand out $20 billion to individuals and businesses impacted by the massive oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, overpromised and underdelivered, state officials and others said today.
Feinberg took over BP’s maligned claims process on Aug. 23, pledging he would “bend over backwards” to help claimants get emergency six-month payments to help them cope with the financial woes many have encountered since the April 20 disaster.
Feinberg last appeared before Gov. Charlie Crist’s Oil Spill Economic Recovery Task Force last month and left even skeptical members of the panel, including Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon, with high hopes that the Boston lawyer would fix BP’s botched claims system.
But Feinberg’s new process, called the “Gulf Coast Claims Facility,” is leaving a lot to be desired, many of the panelists discovered Tuesday.
“I never thought I’d say this but part of me would like BP back,” said Sheldon, who was one of the oil company’s harshest critics before Feinberg took over. “What he articulated to all of us was something totally different than what’s in this protocol.”
The panel is demanding that Feinberg appear before them again and plans to confront him with a transcript of what he said he would do, like allow a priest to verify that information in a claim was accurate, and what they hear is taking place.
The panel heard a litany of complaints about claimants being assigned more than one number to their file, not being able to get answers from adjusters at claims offices, disappearing documents and an 18-page application even for those who had already filed a claim with BP.
Bob Zales, a Panama City charter boat captain who sits on the panel, raised eyebrows with his own tale of problems refiling his claim.
Zales said he was given five claims numbers for his claim and didn’t get much help when he went to a local claims office. The adjuster’s solution was to take Zales’ cell phone and call the toll-free hotline, Zales told the committee.
Feinberg did not follow through on his promise of a seamless transition, Zales said.
“Somewhere there is a serious problem with this claims process,” Zales said. “I can’t make a claim on m number that I’m not sure is my number. I don’t know where my paperwork is. Don’t have a clue. We’ve got a serious problem with this new claims facility.”