BP CLAIMS PAYMENT AS GULF COAST CLAIMANTS WAIT FOR RELIEF, BP EXECUTIVES GET A PAY RAISE.
As Gulf Coast claimants wait to recover BP Claims Payment from the oil spill of 2010, the largest environmental disaster in history, the oil giant adds insult to injury by dramatically increasing the salaries of executives instead of paying the victims of the spill. While many Gulf Coast claimants are still reeling from the effects of the spill, BP continues to be one of the most profitable companies in the world. BP was so profitable in fact that BP CEO Robert Dudley received a pay raise worth triple from his total pay in 2012. Counting salary, bonus, and stock options, Dudley’s compensation was $8.7 million. With his pension included, Dudley cleared $13.2 million. This is a little unsettling, to say the least, for local Gulf Coast companies who are STILL waiting for their BP Claims Payment and still trying to recover from the loss of business, homes, and jobs. BP appealed the settlement for the BP Claims Payment in late 2013, stating that losses were being claimed by companies whose losses did not originate from the spill. Many suspect this is yet another stall tactic to avoid paying claimants, even though BP claims that they are “committed to paying all legitimate claims of real people who suffered real financial losses from the spill.” In December 2013, a judge said BP can’t change the interpretation of its settlement just because it is paying more for losses than it expected. That judge’s ruling was upheld in early March 2014. “The settlement agreement does not require a claimant to submit evidence that the claim arose as a result of the oil spill,” Circuit Judge Leslie Southwick wrote. Because of this, BP will have to stick to its original agreement
Even more unsettling is the amount of money BP is spending on PR, and the way they are trying to “shame and blame” the claimants. “BP remains committed one of the ads reads. “But we will take whatever legal steps necessary to ensure that fraud is not rewarded and claims money goes to claimants who actually deserve it.” So far, the above statement can be translated as “pay no one in order to avoid claimants committing fraud or getting money they don’t deserve.” Sadly, many Gulf Coast residents and business owners would agree with that statement.
As they consider whether or not to appeal again BP Claims Payment, the effects of the 2010 disaster still linger in the Gulf. As of March 3, tar balls are still being collected from Florida beaches nearly four years after the spill. And recent research has found that chemicals in crude oil can be harmful to hearts of developing fish, meaning that any organism that swam near the Deepwater Horizon rig was exposed to cardiac risks. We at BPClaims.org are committed to helping claimants navigate the economic and medical claims process, and most importantly making sure that claimants get the money they are entitled to. After the latest ruling on BP Claims Payment, we are hopeful that some claims will get paid, and we thank the 5th Circuit Court and Judges like Leslie Southwick for forcing BP to “make it right” for the Gulf Coast claimants.
BP Payments Ordered to Resume?
The claimants of the Deepwater Horizon Economic Settlement celebrated a small victory earlier this month when it was decided in a 2:1 vote by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that BP will have to resume payments to victims of the oil spill. Unfortunately, even though Judge Leslie Southwick ordered that BP will have to pay up under the terms of its agreement, many business owners are still waiting to get paid.
Back in December 2013, the 5th Circuit made a ruling that required Judge Barbier to halt payments temporarily in cases where causation was not proven until that particular rule was changed under a stay. That stay, the judges noted, should be “tailored so that those who experienced actual injury traceable to loss from the Deepwater Horizon accident continue to receive recovery, but those who did not do not receive their BP Claims Payment until this case is fully heard and decided through the judicial process, including by any other panel of this court that resolves these issues.” I think it is safe to say that the “stay” didn’t go as planned. I say that because none of the businesses have been able to recover anything since the halt in payments. It seems that BP’s solution to the problem of determining causation is this: Don’t pay anyone! Not one business claim has been paid since the 2013 payment halt. Even companies who received an eligibility notice in late September 2013 are still waiting to receive their money. BP even accepted releases on these claimants, but never issued a BP Claims Payment.
The problems surrounding the causation issue arose late 2013 after allegations were made that some BP Claims Payment were being issued to claimants who did not suffer an economic loss as a result of the oil spill. Admittedly there may be some truth to those allegations; it is not always possible to distinguish if a loss came from the oil spill or just a bad economy. In order to combat that problem, the settlement originally addressed the issue of causation by setting up requirements for a BP Claims Payment. Causation is assumed based on where you live in the economic loss zones, what industry you are in, and the pattern of the company revenue post oil spill. According to the 1,200-page agreement, if a business near the Gulf Coast can show its revenue dropped in 2010 then rebounded in 2011, it qualifies for compensation. The companies are not required to prove a direct link to the spill. According to U.S. Circuit Judge Leslie Southwick in the latest BP ruling in March 2014, proving causation is not the job of the claimant nor is it to be considered a gatekeeping function of the claims administrator. The settlement states specifically that claimants are not required to submit evidence that the claim arose as a result of the oil spill, and even though BP appealed this issue, the 5th Circuit is holding BP’s feet to the fire. BP is going to be forced to uphold the settlement that they helped to create.
Since the halt in every BP Claims Payment, BP has launched a PR campaign designed to show that they have “made it right” in the Gulf so to speak and also to point fingers at Gulf Coast residents, alleging that many of the claims made as a result of losses incurred during the oil spill are fraudulent. BP even took out full-page ads in several national newspapers to prove this point, but that doesn’t help the thousands of claimants who are still waiting for payment, it only serves to frustrate and anger everyone.
The appeal and halt in every BP Claims Payment may have had some unexpected result for BP. In trying to avoid the payments using the “proof of causation” argument, BP may have actually hurt themselves in the doing. In trying to limit the cost of the settlement reached in late 2012, they may have actually increased them when they decided to fight the issue of causation. Back in 2012, BP estimated that the deal would cost the company $7.8 billion. Now, the price tag could reach $9.2 billion or higher. People and businesses making claims still have to attest that their financial losses were caused by the spill, but they do not have to submit actual “proof”. Judge Southwick writes “There is nothing fundamentally unreasonable about what BP accepted but now wishes it had not.”
Now that the issue of causation has been answered once and for all, this opens the door for all claimants claiming a “trickle down” effect loss, which in reality and according to the settlement, is a valid BP Claims Payment claim. I expect to see more claimants now, but I do wonder if they are going to run into problems when they seek help through an attorney or a claims office. BPClaims.org is still accepting clients; we were there in the beginning, and we plan on staying until the end. Unfortunately, many other firms have been forced to stop taking BP Claims because most of them are paid on a contingency basis. The halt in payments have made it impossible for these firms to continue to pay office expenses and salaries associated with processing claims. The December 2013 halt in payments hurt the claimants, is going to cost BP more in the long run, and helped BP succeeded in this: the dramatic reduction of firms that were in business to assist the claimants. That may not have been the intention, but it was one of the end results.
Meanwhile, the deadline for business BP Claims Payment is fast approaching. It was originally set for April 22, two days after the fourth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. It now has been extended to late summer. We at BPClaims.org are still accepting claims, and we are still fighting for our clients. Now that the order to resume payments has passed, we are cautiously optimistic and expect payments to resume for businesses by April 2014 on every BP Claims Payment.
Contact BPCLAIMS.INFO by calling 1-800-272-5246 or 1-800-BPCLAIMS
By: Kathy Schulz