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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Nelson wants Obama to investigate BP claims fund

4

February

Sen. Bill Nelson is asking President Obama for an investigation into the $20 billion BP oil spill compensation, following news reports that the fund is not being administered properly and with independence from BP.

"Mr. President, last summer, while in my state at the U.S. Coast Guard station in Panama City, you said this fund would be run independent of those who caused the spill ‘so that people can trust that they'll get a fair shake,’ ” Nelson wrote in a letter to Obama today.  “The claimants in Florida, and the rest of the Gulf coast, deserve no less. “I respectfully request that your administration initiate a review of all administrative operations of the claims fund."

The Associated Press on Wednesday summed it up: Claims czar Ken Feinberg has faced repeated criticism about the slow pace of payments and the small size of checks to victims, as well as complaints about lack of transparency and perceived influence from BP. The hits continued Wednesday.

"While this office had hoped that the methodology would finally provide some transparency, this document provides no useful information to claimants beyond a simplistic multiplier and is based on very optimistic assumptions about unknown environmental and economic conditions," Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a court filing.

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20510
 
Dear Mr. President,
 
I am writing to ask for a review of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.  My request follows a court ruling and recently published news accounts that raise questions about transparency and accountability of the $20-billion fund set up to compensate victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Just this week, a Louisiana district court judge, in essence, ruled the fund is not in any way-shape-or-form “independent” of the BP oil company, and that BP must refrain from calling the administrator "neutral" as compensation is dispensed to victims of the worst oil spill in our country’s history.
Mr. President, last summer, while in my state at the U.S. Coast Guard station in Panama City, you said this fund would be run independent of those who caused the spill “so that people can trust that they'll get a fair shake.”
 
The claimants in Florida, and the rest of the Gulf coast, deserve no less.
In addition to the aforementioned court ruling, the Associated Press reported this week the claims fund has disbursed only one final settlement, which was done at the request of BP and amounts to $10 million that went to an unnamed BP business partner.
In any other context involving a fund of this size, questions that touch on accountability and transparency would normally be reviewed by a regulator or outside auditor.   I believe a high level of scrutiny should apply not only to claimants, but also to the claims handlers – and to BP.  
 
Thus, I respectfully request that your administration initiate a review of all administrative operations of the claims fund.  Given the court ruling and other news accounts, there’s clearly a need to assure more accountability and transparency.  I thank you in advance for addressing this concern.
 
Sincerely,
 
Bill Nelson
U.S. Senator, Florida

 

 

[Last modified: Friday, February 4, 2011 2:44pm]

    

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