Becnel sticks up for Feinberg in oil spill litigation

Steve Korris Aug. 15, 2011, 1:50pm


NEW ORLEANS – Gulf Coast Claims Facility administrator Kenneth Feinberg doesn't need to defend himself from attacks as long as Louisiana lawyer Danny Becnel can do it.

On Aug. 12, Becnel ardently opposed a plaintiff steering committee that wants U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to appoint a special master over Feinberg.

"At its most basic, the plaintiff steering committee's primary criticism of Mr. Feinberg is that he is too meticulous in reviewing for adequacy of proof," Becnel wrote.

"This program would become a free for all cash grab, however, if the plaintiff steering committee has its way.

"If the plaintiff steering committee prevails, it wants to abandon all requirements that claimants provide proof to support their claims."

He wrote that Feinberg found 2,000 to 3,000 suspicious claims, and that at least seven people have been indicted by the Justice Department.

He wrote that the committee would make the Federal Emergency Management Agency payment program for Hurricane Katrina look like a paragon of virtue.

He wrote that the inspector general of homeland security accused FEMA of improperly paying $643 million, amounting to nine percent of Katrina claims paid.

He wrote that the committee went to great pains not to mention Feinberg or the word, administrator, in its attacks on the facility's honesty.

"Clearly it takes this tactic because, in light of Mr. Feinberg's exemplary record and unquestioned integrity, the absurdity of these false and wholly unsupported charges would be exposed if expressly directed at him," he wrote.

"The plaintiff steering committee's brief is replete with prejudicial, unsupported and totally false statements that simply aren't true," he wrote.

He wrote that it wasn't true that the facility manipulates potential class members and drives them to sign full releases.

He wrote that it wasn't true that claim procedures contravened the Oil Pollution Act.

He wrote that it wasn't true that the only way to get compensation was to take quick payments and assign all rights to BP.

He wrote that it wasn't true that burdensome documents set up certain failure that the facility uses to manipulative potential class members.

He wrote that it wasn't true that the facility systematically forces potential class members to accept quick payments because they are offered no viable options.

He wrote that it wasn't true that the facility requested documents that didn't exist and submitted calculations that misrepresented documents.

He wrote that it wasn't true that BP unquestionably directed the facility to use the Oil Pollution Act as a tool to avoid litigation.

He wrote that it wasn't true that BP makes things as difficult as possible for victims to receive interim payments.

"Such extreme, unsupported and completely untrue statements are clearly intended to make Mr. Feinberg and GCCF appear as having insidious motives and to be intentionally acting contrary to their duties," Becnel wrote.

He wrote that he was unaware of any proof that the facility had any policies or operated in any manner other than in the best interest of claimants.

He wrote that Louisiana lawyer Ronnie Penton and the facility settled on a substantial sum for a family of one who died on the Deepwater Horizon rig.

He wrote that Baton Rouge lawyer Keith Jones successfully resolved a claim for the estate of his son Gordon, who died on the rig.

Becnel also endorsed the facility's treatment of his clients, including resorts, hotels, restaurants, fishermen, oystermen, shrimpers and property owners.

He wrote that the facility now offers to pay oystermen not only for income loss but also for damage to the beds.

He also urged Barbier to deny the committee's request for an independent audit of Feinberg's facility.

He wrote that on July 7, Attorney General Eric Holder asked Feinberg to undergo an audit and Feinberg immediately agreed.

He wrote that a July 20 letter from Holder to Feinberg stated, "I note the GCCF's progress in the face of nearly one million claims filed and appreciate your efforts."

He wrote that Holder told Feinberg the audit would start before the end of the year, "in a manner that will not disrupt the timely processing of claims."

He wrote that Holder's announcement was met enthusiastically by critics of Feinberg, Alabama attorney general Luther Strange and U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner of Mobile.

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