Speaking before a U.S. Senate subcommittee on Jan. 27, oil spill claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg announced that payments for final and interim claims would begin around Feb. 18.
Feinberg's announcement came in his prepared remarks before the Disaster Recovery Subcommittee of the Senate's Homeland Security Committee chaired senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.).
Feinberg also spent some of his testimony defending himself from accusations made by plaintiff lawyers in the BP multi district litigation that he is working as an agent for BP. Feinberg's law firm, Fienberg Rozen, is paid $850,000 per month by BP to run the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), which determines which claims get paid and by how much.
A recent filing by BP attorneys in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana stated that, though BP pays Feinberg, "the Feinberg Rozen firm makes OPA claims decisions for the GCCF, not BP."
In late December 2010, New York University legal ethics professor Stephen Gillers wrote a letter at Feinberg's request, which examined the GCCF's position relative to BP. Gillers wrote that the plaintiff's "suggestion that you are not independent because you are BP's lawyer is wrong. You are not BP's lawyer."
Senator David Vitter (R-La.) criticized Feinberg at the subcommittee hearing, pointing to reports that half of the individual claims that have been paid have been "quick pays," mostly to people working in restaurants, hotels and other service industry positions.
Feinberg said that he agrees that "commercial fisherman, shrimpers, have waited too long for the final payments and interim payments."
Federal Case 2:10-md-02179