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BP Oil Spill – What to do with all the Lawsuits?

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Well, here we are. Lawsuits have been filed, and BP is setting up a $20 billion fund to resolve "legitimate" claims. Would the claimants be better off in litigation or through a claim on the new fund?

Here is some of BP’s press release:

    • BP will initially make payments of $3bn in Q3 of 2010 and $2bn in Q4 of 2010. These will be followed by a payment of $1.25bn per quarter until a total of $20bn has been paid in.

    • While the fund is building, BP’s commitments will be assured by the setting aside of U.S. assets with a value of $20bn. The intention is that this level of assets will decline as cash contributions are made to the fund.

    • The fund will be available to satisfy legitimate claims including natural resource damages and state and local response costs. Fines and penalties will be excluded from the fund and paid separately. Payments from the fund will be made as they are adjudicated, whether by the Independent Claims Facility (ICF) referred to below, or by a court, or as agreed by BP.

    • The ICF will be administered by Ken Feinberg. The ICF will adjudicate on all Oil Pollution Act and tort claims excluding all federal and state claims.

    • Any money left in the fund once all legitimate claims have been resolved and paid will revert to BP.

I believe the claims process will be quicker and more efficient than a mass tort multi-district litigation case. In addition, this process will not require attorneys, or if claimants wish to have an attorney represent them, the attorney will probably require a lower contingent fee – at least I would.

If you have a claim, here is the claim form on BP’s website.

While I have my doubts about many corporations and their ultimate goals, there are good corporations whose employees have admirable goals. We do live in a capitalistic society, and fortunately or unfortunately, that means that people make money. Some more than others.

There are also corporations whose employees are greedy, money hungry bastards – see HealthSouth, Worldcom, Tyco, Enron, Insurance companies, etc. There is a balance. Fortunately, BP seems to understand this balance with a little persuasion from the current administration. You have to wonder whether the last administration would have pushed for such a fund.