As a result of a number of complaints that were made directly to the Attorney General of the United States, an independent consultant has completed an audit investigating the operations of the recently shuttered Gulf Coast Claims Facility. That was the name of the operation administered by Kenneth Feinberg, a well-respected attorney who has vast experience in determining appropriate compensation for large numbers of victims. Feinberg was asked to run the operation by President Barack Obama shortly after the world became aware of the scope of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. Although Feinberg’s knowledge and expertise were invaluable, and the Department of Justice’s final assessment was that his operation had furthered the overall knowledge of disaster response and compensation, there had been many complaints about his operation that prompted the independent audit.
The complaints that were received about the Gulf Coast Claims Facility ranged from concerns about the amount of time that it took for payments to be sent to victims, to a high number of claims that were denied for reasons that were unclear, to a lack of parity in compensation in similar claims. The audit was conducted by BDO Consulting, and though their final report found no wrongdoing, they did determine that over 7,300 claims were underpaid, and as a result of the study an additional $64 million dollars in compensation will be sent to those claimants. They also indicated that many claims were overpaid, although there will be no action to collect those funds.
The Gulf Coast Claims Facility is no longer in operation. In May of 2012, federal judge Carl Barbier gave preliminary approval to a settlement agreement that was reached between BP Oil Company and a group representing the individuals and businesses of the region who were hurt economically and medically by the massive oil spill. The new agreement sets forth very clear identification of who is and who is not eligible to file a claim for a variety of different damages. For each type of claim it spells out exactly what documentation will be required or accepted and exactly how the compensation for each type of claim will be determined, based on factors of documented losses and proximity to the oil spill itself. The new claims centers will be supervised by the courts, and it is hoped that they will operate in a much more transparent and predictable manner.