Nightly News   |  July 12, 2010

BP claims czar seeks to calm troubled waters

Attorney Kenneth Feinberg arrived in Pensacola, Florida on Monday armed with promises for a crowd of frustrated business owners whose compensation claims against BP have been reduced or rejected. NBC's Ron Mott reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

RON MOTT reporting: This is Ron Mott on Pensacola Beach , where Florida 's governor hosted the man who holds the purse strings on the gulf coast escrow fund set up to pay out some $20 billion in oil leak damage claims.

Mr. KENNETH FEINBERG: We're going to accelerate the payments.

MOTT: And attorney Kenneth Feinberg came armed with promises for a crowd of business owners, elected officials and others to calm the waters.

Mr. FEINBERG: The first thing you have to do is listen to what people are saying, the uncertainty financially, the concern, the frustration.

MOTT: Feinberg says claim seekers eventually will be able to file online, will be given six months worth of emergency payments at once rather than monthly checks now distributed, and the process will be simplified. But not so simple for the thousands of claim seekers who generally work for cash like deckhands and day laborers and commercial fishing. About 40 percent of close to 100,000 claims are receiving lowered payouts, being delayed or even being rejected for lack of documentation.

Mr. FEINBERG: We will do everything we can to be claimant friendly. They're still going to have to corroborate their claim. I cannot simply cut checks without backup that demonstrates that they're entitled to get paid that amount.

MOTT: One Louisiana shrimper faults the fisherman for their lack of paperwork.

Mr. PETE GERICA (Lake Pontchartrain Fishermens Association President): They got to have something, some kind of record of sales. I mean, it's, you know, it's ridiculous to think that somebody could be working a business making 40, $50,000 a year and don't have any record of it.

MOTT: For government entities seeking claims, Feinberg says BP will continue processing those admissions for the time being , among them Orange Beach , Alabama , whose mayor is still waiting to collect on nearly $2 million in claims for his city.

Mr. TONY KENNON (Orange Beach, Alabama Mayor): It just really makes me angry, especially when I see this $50 million PR spin that -- they didn't have any problem putting that together in a quick time frame to get it on TV , but they can't get the claims paid.

MOTT: Ken Feinberg says tonight he will take control of the individual claims process BP is now handling sometime, Brian , over the next two to three weeks.

WILLIAMS: The anger continues to build. Ron Mott in Florida . Before that, Anne Thompson in Louisiana starting our reporting tonight. Thanks.