GCCF Not Independent: Judge's decision reins in Feinberg

In December, oil spill lawyers representing Gulf Coast clients and Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) claimants asked the judge overseeing the BP litigation to order changes to the claims process. In the motion, the attorneys stated that communications between oil spill victims and the BP defendants were "misleading" and should be more effective.

On Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011, Judge Carl Barbier agreed with the plaintiffs' attorneys. In his order, he stated that Fund Administrator Ken Feinberg, his law firm Feinberg Rozen LLP and the GCCF must refrain from referring to themselves as "neutral" or completely "independent" of BP. In response to the Motion to Supervise Ex Parte Communications with Putative Class, In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, Judge Barbier additionally stated the GCCF must "refrain from contacting directly any claimant that they know or reasonably should know is represented by counsel," clearly disclose they are acting on behalf of BP and refrain from giving legal advice to unrepresented claimants.

Motley Rice oil spill lawyer Kevin Dean said, "this is a huge victory for claimants who have been in the dark. It will stop Feinberg from continuing his misrepresentations to the public and baiting claimants into filing final claims and accepting quick pay small settlements to assist BP, which pays him $850,000 per month." Dean went on to say, "Now the truth can be revealed and BP's control over Feinberg will be apparent so people may be better informed and understand that Feinberg is not their friend nor is he independent.

Judge Barbier listed six requirements for communications between the GCCF and claimants.

Read Judge Barbier's complete order.

This decision arrives on the heels of the GCCF's announcement of its new payment criteria.

Read coverage by Reuters and Bloomberg.

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