Video: Feinberg vows to pay oil claims ‘quickly’

  1. Transcript of: Feinberg vows to pay oil claims ‘quickly’

    MR. GREGORY: You've got great experience on such horrible circumstances, the 9/11 compensation fund, among others in your experience. And I was speaking to somebody the other day who -- whose brother grew up on his dad's boat as a, as a fisherman, as a shrimper. It's all he's known his whole life, and he's gone through his life, and all of a sudden it stops cold, his livelihood is gone, not to return. What does that guy do as he turns to you and this compensation fund? What does he get?

    MR. FEINBERG: He files a claim and he gets paid and he gets paid promptly. The president of the United States has instructed me, "Get these claims paid, get them played -- paid quickly." When I met with Governor Barbour , he told me frankly, "Ken, time is the enemy." And he's so right here. I must make sure that this $20 billion fund provides for prompt payment, full compensation. It's an independent program. I'm not beholden to the administration; I'm not beholden to BP .

    MR. GREGORY: But BP pays your bills, right?

    MR. FEINBERG: Who else can pay the bills?

    MR. GREGORY: Right.

    MR. FEINBERG: You can't ask people in the Gulf to pay the bills. You can't ask state or federal government to pay the bills. What is the alternative? BP is stepping up, and they're going to make sure, I'm going to make sure that every eligible, legitimate claim is paid and paid quickly.

    MR. GREGORY: So what happens -- so -- all right, so let's take our example of the shrimper. Out of business , doesn't know, you know, what he's going to do even for the immediate first few months. How much money do -- does that shrimper get? But then what happens over the longer term? Is this one of these deals where you get one payment and then you say, "Therefore, I'm not going to sue in the future"?

    MR. FEINBERG: Not -- absolutely not. That shrimper should come right into this fund, doesn't need a lawyer, doesn't have to pay a lawyer 40 percent of what he receives. He should come into the fund, he will get an emergency payment without any obligation as long as he can demonstrate he's got a legitimate claim , of course. But we will pay that claim immediately, and then sit with him and over the next 30, 45 days, come up with a program that will provide him full compensation.

    MR. GREGORY: You talk about legitimate claims. That's, of course, a big issue. And Tony Hayward is outspoken yet again on this point, quoted in The Times of London . Let me show it to you on the screen. "Mr. Hayward reiterated a promise that BP `will honor all legitimate claims for business interruption.' This was in The Times of London . "Asked for examples of illegitimate claims, he said, `I could give you lots of examples. This is America come on. We're going to have lots of illegitimate claims. We all know that.'" What's legitimate, what's illegitimate?

    MR. FEINBERG: We'll have to look at each claim . Now, the Congress provided some valuable guidance in the 911 fund as to what constitutes a legitimate claim . The direct causal connection between the claim and the spill, pay it. If it's an indirect claim , a restaurant in, in Las Vegas or Omaha , "I can't get shrimp so our business is being harmed," in the 911 fund, Congress said look to the law of the state of that claimant's residence. Would the law allow such a claim ? It may be, as we develop this program, that congressional guidance in 911 might work here as well.

    MR. GREGORY: You're, you're in the vortex of politics whether you stay clear of it or not. And Joe Barton from Texas was -- got in a lot of trouble for something he said, apologizing to BP . Let me play you a portion of that.

    REP. JOE BARTON (R-TX): And I 'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a "shakedown." So I'm only speaking for myself, I'm not speaking for anybody else, but I apologize.

    MR. GREGORY: Is this BP fund of $20 billion a shakedown?

    MR. FEINBERG: I don't think it's a shakedown. I, I think that BP -- to BP 's credit, in these other programs that I've set up, David , there was nothing in place. We had to start from scratch. Here there is a program in place. Now, it's not efficient as it should be. It's not working as well as it should be, but BP 's paid $100 million worth of claims so far. We can do better, and we can do quicker. But I don't think it helps to politicize this program. These people in the Gulf are in desperate straits. And I 'm getting great advice from Governor Barbour and Governor Jindal . I got some fabulous advice this morning from Senator Landrieu , who said, as for business interruption, maybe we ought to cluster all the oyster claims, all the fisherman claims, all the tourism claims, come up with a common methodology. This is input that is bipartisan. And as in these other programs I've done, I think it's pretty important to try and keep it bipartisan.

    MR. GREGORY: I, I, I just want to try to button up the, the process here, which I, I think is complicated. So if you have an emergency claim , you may have an emergency claim for, you know, your loss of business in the immediate period. How do you make an assessment over the longer term what somebody who's lost their livelihood should get, how much money should they get?

    MR. FEINBERG: Well, in the short term, emergency payments with minimum corroboration, that's easy. In the longer term, just as with the 911 fund, we'll have to develop a business interruption methodology. Look, file your claim , give us some information on what you've earned in the past, not a lot, not detailed, so that we can, within 30 to 45 days, try and get checks out on business interruption. I think John is correct in your panel, it sure would help me if the oil would stop flowing so we could get some break date from which we develop these formulas.

    MR. GREGORY: And by the way, when you say a method -- in other words, just like in 911 where it was the grim task of assessing the worth of a life, frankly, in that kind of situation, here you have to try to assess what are projected earnings, a projected income that a fisherman might have over a period of time and make a certain judgment based on that. But on the suing issue, on the litigation, I mean, look, you're a lawyer, you know well that BP 's going to be in court forever, frankly, on claims. Now, a lot of people would say, "Hey, they got this escrow fund. This is just a way to mitigate that. This is a way to get people to stop suing to pay out less. It's an up-front settlement." What do -- what legal recourse will folks have beyond the money that they get for business interruption down the road?

    MR. FEINBERG: As with 911, you know the 911 fund well, David , this is a voluntary program. Nobody's compelled to come into this fund. I would urge everybody to come into this fund. Quicker payments, faster consideration. You go and litigate, you're going to litigate for years, the result is uncertain, your lawyer is waiting with a contingency percentage. I mean, it's the trade-off. Now, I'm confident, as with the 911 fund, that if claimants enter this fund voluntarily, they will be treated fairly, they will be treated in a comprehensive way, they'll be given emergency payments with no, no requirement in terms of waiving your right to sue. These emergency payments are without condition. And then we'll, I think, be able to, to treat everybody fairly.

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