Former FBI Director to Probe Compensation Fund
More than three years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP continues to pay out billions in compensation to states, businesses and people harmed by the disaster. However, the company is questioning some of the claims coming in to the compensation fund. They include things like a minor league baseball stadium in Biloxi, Mississippi, and a new beachfront hotel and conference center in Alabama. This week, former FBI Director Louis Freeh was appointed to investigate alleged misconduct in the handling of the compensation fund. BP lauded the appointment, saying they trust Freeh to "conduct a thorough investigation into the recent allegations of unethical and potentially criminal behavior within the program," according to a statement.
But not everyone is crying over BP's predicament. Southeast Texas attorney Brent Coon represents clients who have sued over the 2010 oil spill. He tells KTRH this compensation fund is the deal BP negotiated. "BP wanted a broad net thrown out to capture as many different kinds of cases as possible, to keep them out of the litigation system and away from potential jury trials." While things like baseball stadiums and hotels seem inappropriate for a victims' compensation fund, Coon says there are legitimate things that aren't being covered. "They're not paying people that work in the gaming industry and casinos (on the Gulf coast), they're not paying financial institutions or municipalities that lost revenue due to lack of tourism."
BP originally estimated it would pay out a total of seven or eight billion dollars after the spill, but last year the company committed $20 billion to set up the compensation fund to cover a broad range of claims related to the spill. Now, BP says it has already paid out more than $25 billion with no end in sight. Coon, however, notes that only a small portion of that $25 million is actual compensation claims. The majority, he says, is for actual costs and repairs related to the disaster. And he argues the company can easily afford it. "BP is an example of a company that makes $500 billion a year, and they're not even the biggest oil company," he says.