Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Feinberg Wants to Protect BP, Not "Small People"

Or so it seems.

Obama's Pay Czar cum Oil Spill Escrow Fund Czar Kenneth Feinberg wants to subtract money that Gulf coast fishermen earn by working on the cleanup effort from any future damage claims against BP.

Dahr Jamail of Truthout reports:

BP's Scheme to Swindle the "Small People" (Dahr Jamail, 7/19/2010 Truthout)

"Gulf Coast fishermen and others with lost income claims against BP are outraged by a recent announcement that the $20 billion government-administered claim fund will subtract money they earn by working on the cleanup effort from any future damage claims against BP. This move, according to lawyers in Louisiana working on behalf of Louisiana fishermen and others affected by the BP oil disaster, contradicts an earlier BP statement in which the company promised it would do no such thing.

"Kenneth Feinberg, who was appointed by President Obama as the independent administrator of the Gulf Claims Facility for the $20 billion BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster compensation fund, said yesterday that the wages earned by people working on BP's cleanup will be deducted from their claims against the company.

"He said the fund is designed to compensate fishermen and others for their lost income, and if BP is already paying someone to help skim oil and perform other cleanup work, those wages will be subtracted from the amount they're eligible to claim from the fund."

The article title is a bit misleading, because this would be news to BP, whose lawyer had formally written to the attorneys for cases pending in Lousiana:

"A.T. Chenault, a lawyer representing BP, responded in writing via letter stating, "We have no personal knowledge of the presentation of a Voluntary Waiver and Release to numerous people from Plaquemines Parish in Venice, Louisiana. However, it is the position of BP that any such documents will be rescinded and not binding on anyone signing same."

"Lastly, we confirm that BP will not offset payments to vessel owners or other volunteers against claims they might have," wrote Cheault, who is with the firm Fowler, Rodriguez, Valdes-Fauli." [The entire article at the link above.]

This blog already raised the question as to exactly whose interest Mr. Feinberg intends to represent in dispensing this fund.

But other questions beg answers, too.

1. Has anyone seen the actual signed agreement for the escrow fund?

2. What is in the agreement, exactly?

3. Who signed the agreement? BP and ....? Obama?

4. If Obama, who (or what) gave him the authority to demand and sign an agreement like that?

5. Where was Congress?

6. Where is Congress now?

7. Why isn't anyone demanding to know what is in the agreement?

8. Why isn't anyone asking why this private attorney (Feinberg) has any authority to dispense this fund? Just because Obama said so?

9. Is Mr. Feinberg's law firm set to benefit in any way? If so, in what way? (The article does mention that the attorneys with cases in Louisiana court are planning to meet Mr. Feinberg's law partner Michael K. Rozen.)

Interestingly, Mr. Rozen was seen speaking to attorneys, insurance companies, government agencies and answering questions in Oil in the Gulf Conference, explaining this escrow fund. He was addressing himself as "we", indicating he is a part of the official team. (So if Obama appoints Feinberg, his partner is also automatically in??)

This escrow fund (if there's any money in it) smells more and more like the settlement of a big class action lawsuit, except the settlement is already at hand without the lawsuit. Just like any class action lawsuit settlement, likely winners are the attorneys representing the 'small people' who will receive pittance. If that.


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