Plaintiff lawyers in the multi-district litigation (MDL) involving the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill have filed a motion urging U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to supervise public comments made by Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) administrator Ken Feinberg.
The motion to supervise ex parte communications between defendant and putative class members and a 29-page memorandum in support was filed before the holiday weekend in federal court in New Orleans. It states that the plaintiffs “seek to ensure that communications with putative classmembers[sic] are neither confusing nor misleading.”
The motion comes on the heels of several changes Feinberg and his firm made to the GCCF claims process involving interim payments and quick payments, which require applicants to waive all rights to sue any defendant related to the oil spill.
The motion seeks to more clearly define Feinberg’s role. It states that “no formal trust agreement … defines or otherwise formally establishes the scope or limits of authority of Mr. Feinberg to act as an agent or fiduciary for BP or the claimants in establishing or administering the (separate and distinct) Claims Facility.”
The motion essentially accuses Feinberg of working as a BP lawyer and the GCCF of lacking transparency when it comes to why it accepts or denies claims. The motion claims that the “GCCF is undoubtedly acting pursuant to a BP mandate” to “avoid lawsuits.”
Plaintiffs cite how BP is paying Feinberg $850,000 a month, as well as the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust Agreement and the Mukasey Report as indicating that it is BP, not Feinberg, working as an independent agent, calling the shots with the GCCF.
“By all appearances,” the motion states, “Mr. Feinberg … seems indistinguishable from a defense attorney attempting to settle cases on behalf of BP.”
The motion asks for Barbier, who is presiding over the oil spill MDL, to clarify that Feinberg is not, in fact, working independently but is actually being paid by and working for BP.
<>Federal MDL 10-2179