GULF COAST — The head of the $20-billion Gulf oil spill compensation fund urged individuals and businesspeople not to sue BP — at least not yet — and said emergency payments would soon be increased.
Fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg said those who have suffered losses from the spill should wait and see how much he could settle their claim for before suing.
“There’s no reason to litigate. Don’t file a lawsuit, at least not yet,” he said. “Take the emergency payments to stay in business, consider the final check that I will offer. If you think it’s reasonable, it’s fair, take it and then and only then sign off.”
He added: “You will not get a better deal filing a lawsuit and litigating for five years.”
More than 200 lawsuits have been filed by fisherman and others against BP PLC and Transocean Ltd., which leased the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that exploded April 20.
Feinberg, appearing at a beachside restaurant with Gov. Charlie Crist and a host of local officials, said emergency payments, which are being issued in monthly checks, would begin to be handed out in six-month sums in the next couple weeks.
“The oil’s still spilling. It doesn’t make any sense to make people come back a second month and a third month,” he said.
In the hourlong meeting, Feinberg sought to clear up confusion among those filing claims. He said claims can still be filed even if businesses are not located directly on the beach.
Corroboration of losses is needed, but he said he would “bend over backwards to find corroboration.” And once the amount of loss was determined by him, he said, it would be paid out at 100 percent.
Feinberg said his biggest challenge is getting people to file claims. He said many worry their information would be turned over to the IRS or immigration officials.
“I don’t work for BP and I don’t work for the Obama administration,” he said. “I work for the people of the Gulf.”