In a court document filed last week, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi outlines four main grievances with the oil spill claims process under Kenneth Feinberg:
- The delay in issuing final and interim payments, which Bondi argues may be forcing some claimants to accept the fund’s “quick pay” option. She calls on Feinberg to process all payments as quickly as possible.
- The lack of transparency, which Feinberg acknowledged Friday has been his “Achilles’ heal.” He said Friday he would explain to claimants why they were denied or how their payments were calculated. Bondi calls on the court to order the fund to release internal documents outlining how it calculated payments and decides who’s eligible for compensation.
- The absence of a meaningful appeals process, which Bondi argues would offer claimants due process above and beyond what is offered by the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center, which Feinberg said has agreed with his judgments in every case so far. He also said that offering appeals on all claims decisions (instead of just those worth more than $250,000) would hamper the fund’s ability to issue payments quickly.
- The overly broad scope of the release, which covers business partners and family members. Bondi argues it should be clarified so it only applies to duplicate claims (such as a husband and wife claiming the same damage), and not claims for separate damages to people who happen to be related.
Those changes would ensure that the claims process is fair, and lives up to BP’s commitment to making things right, Bondi says in the filing. Feinberg has already promised changes, such as offering claimants better explanations of his decisions
He has not yet agreed to another of Bondi’s proposals: appointing an independent auditor. Without being able to see exactly how Fienberg is making his decisions, she says in the filing, it’s almost impossible to know whether his operation is following the law.
Bondi said she plans to meet with Feinberg repeatedly over the coming months to ensure he follows through on his promises to improve transparency and turn around payments more quickly. He said the additional staff the fund is dispatching to Florida should help on both counts.