Journalism in the Public Interest

Read Justice Dept.‘s Letter Criticizing Gulf Spill Czar’s Final Claims Guidelines

Tomorrow, Gulf claims czar Kenneth Feinberg will release his protocol for evaluating final claims -- the lump sum settlements that are meant to cover all losses from the spill but require claimants to waive their right to sue BP. He will begin reviewing applications for final claims after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Department of Justice has reviewed an early draft of Feinberg's protocol, and on Nov. 19 Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli wrote to Feinberg expressing concerns about the proposed guidelines. He also urged Feinberg to improve his operation's transparency by offering a more detailed explanation of the principles that are used to decide claims. You can read Perrelli's letter, which we've posted in our document viewer.

Although we haven't yet seen Feinberg's final claims protocol, Perrelli's letter gives an early indication of what may become some of its most contentious provisions. Among the concerns raised by Perrelli:

  • Though claimants may continue to receive interim checks without releasing BP from liability after the Thanksgiving holiday, they may only receive these checks on a quarterly basis. Perrelli expressed concern that this could create financial hardship for claimants who are living from paycheck to paycheck, and called on Feinberg to continue offering monthly interim payments.
  • The release that claimants must sign to in order to receive final payments is overbroad, Perrelli believes. He wrote that its terms are "sufficiently vague that it suggests claimants have to release claims of spouses and business partners, even in situations where such a release is unfair or nonsensical."
  • Although it is not known what the appeals process in Feinberg's final protocol will be, Perrelli called on Feinberg to pay particular attention to the judges he selects to oversee it. He emphasized that these judges must "have the confidence of the people of the Gulf -- which will be much more likely when the judges themselves are from the Gulf region."

On Nov. 20, the day after receiving the letter, Feinberg told the AP that he was taking the associate attorney general's concerns seriously. "I think it's always wise to listen carefully to constructive criticism from the Department of Justice," Feinberg said. He indicated that one area he would seek to improve was providing more information to claimants. "They want me to improve transparency, and I plan to do so," he said.

You can read the rest of Perrelli's letter here, and we will keep you updated on the details of Feinberg's protocol for final claims from the Gulf oil spill.

So what happens to those of us still waiting on our first check?!  Mine has been under re-evaluation for a while now (months)  with no light at the end of the tunnel.  I’m very concerned that we will just be swept under the rug and pushed aside.  Should I just go ahead and file for a final claim? I just don’t know what to do, and each day I become more desperate.  While Feinberg’s people sort through fraudulent claims and “complicated decisions”,  those of us truly affected by this spill are starving.  Our bills go unpaid, and our future seems to be snowballing out of control.  I just wish they would answer our questions honestly… instead of giving the same BS run-around crap.. “we are working very hard,  no, I don’t know what order they review documents, please just be patient for a little while longer, we are working as fast as we can. ”

Please, we need help.. NOW

Nancy Boulicault

Nov. 24, 2010, 3:31 a.m.

Is there some way of responding confidentially to the comment of L.E. ?
Thank you,

you can email me if you would like.. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

the final protacol is on the gccf site this morning and it says they have 90 days to decide if they will pay these thats nuts people are having it too hard they need to shorten that up a bit

I don’t agree with Perrelli’s argument that the judges should be from the Gulf region.  Those are the judges most likely to be in the pocket of the oil companies.  Whose side is Perrelli on?

let’s see how well the 90 days goes….This is a nightmare!

still have not received my emergency 1 month payment(been 7 weeks).. Went ahead and filed a final. ready to get this nightmare over with. no one knows nothing when you ask questions. ive educated my self enough now i dont need to ask them for more questions.

i agree, most of the judges and lawyers are in the pockets of the politicians and big businesses on the gulf, i wouldn’t trust them.  this is a very cliqueish area and big money sticks together.  it’s who you know down here, not if you are right or wrong.

This article is produced with the help of readers:
ProPublica Reporting Network

ProPublica Reporting Network

Our collaborative reporting initiative that connects readers with our reporters to produce stories in the public interest.

Reporting Network

Sign up to be notified of reporting opportunities.

Get Updates

Our Hottest Stories