Nightly News | September 23, 2010
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: gulf oil spill. Let's not forget 87 days worth of oil in that water, and about that $20 billion compensation fund. It's been a month since Ken Feinberg took over the claims process from BP . He's a lawyer with a track record of handling other difficult situations, like the fund for the 9/11 victims families. Gulf residents welcomed him as a plain spoken New Englander and a hero when he went back to Orange Beach , Alabama , to see how he's doing. Our report from our senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers .
LISA MYERS reporting: Since the spill, BP has pounded home this message.
Unidentified Man #1: BP has got to make things right.
Mayor TONY KENNON: And they're spending $100 million on a PR blitz to tell the rest of the country they're making us whole. Guys, it's not true. It's not true.
MYERS: And Mayor Tony Kennon of Orange Beach , Alabama , devastated when tourists stayed away, says the new independent claims administrator Ken Feinberg has not made things better.
Mayor KENNON: So we're very upset with the overall performance of Ken Feinberg .
MYERS: In an interview, Feinberg acknowledges problems.
Mr. KEN FEINBERG: We haven't processed all of the claims as quickly as we should have. I oversold this program at the beginning and I'm paying the price for it. I do not work for BP .
MYERS: He's been the target of anger and frustration at recent town hall meetings.
Ms. RHONDA DRUMMOND (Small Business Owner): You've killed my working class business.
MYERS: We went back to two businesses we've kept up with. Jeff Hardy owns a shoe and apparel business and says his losses are now more than a million dollars. He's received one check for $5,000. These twin sisters who plan weddings on the beach have received $29,000 on a claim of $240,000.
Ms. SHEILA NEWMAN (Orange Beach Weddings): We feel like we deserve what we lost, and that's all we're asking for is give us what we lost.
MYERS: Do you understand how angry and desperate some of these people are when you send them these tiny checks?
Mr. FEINBERG: I understand the frustration. I understand the concern. Remember, though, that there are thousands of citizens in the gulf who received very, very generous checks.
MYERS: Feinberg 's office has paid out almost $350 million for 26,000 claims in only a month. He showed us several e-mails from grateful claimants. And overall gives himself a pretty good grade. Feinberg says most still waiting for money simply haven't provided enough documentation.
Mr. FEINBERG: They just don't have the backup to justify it.
MYERS: But Hardy says he's provided 1700 pages to back up his claim.
Mr. JEFF HARDY: Now I'm being told, since I've got so much information on the table, then it cannot be processed.
Unidentified Man #2: No, that's ridiculous.
MYERS: Feinberg says he's sticking to his promise. Anyone who can prove lost income will be fully compensated.
Mr. FEINBERG: If I don't do that, I've failed. I've failed.
MYERS: Lisa Myers , NBC News, Washington.