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Feinberg Sends Out 1,489 Final Offers for BP Gulf Spill Claims

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Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Kenneth Feinberg said he has sent 1,489 offers for final payment to victims of BP Plc’s oil spill, the first round since completion of a methodology for calculating future losses.

Feinberg, who administers a $20 billion claims fund paid by BP, said in an interview today that he also has distributed 466 interim checks since making the payment formula final on Feb. 18. He didn’t disclose the amounts involved.

Lack of documentation for claims continues to be an obstacle to compensation, according to Feinberg, a Washington lawyer. The fund has sent letters to about 130,000 claimants asking for additional documentation to demonstrate losses. So far only 17 percent have responded, he said.

“The absence of substantiation is a huge problem,” Feinberg said.

Senators Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, and Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, criticized Feinberg during a Jan. 27 congressional hearing for being slow to compensate victims of the April spill, the largest in U.S. waters. Claimants face “severe challenges in getting timely payments,” said Landrieu, who is the chairman of a disaster-recovery panel that held the hearing.

The Feinberg-run fund has paid more than $3.47 billion in claims to spill victims as of Feb. 21, mostly in short-term “emergency payments,” according to the facility’s website. The total includes about $829 million in checks to more than 93,000 people and businesses who applied for final compensation through a “quick pay” option as Feinberg worked to complete the formula on future losses.

$25,000 to Businesses

People were eligible to receive $5,000 and businesses $25,000 within two weeks from the day they applied if they already received an emergency payment and agreed not to take BP or other companies involved in the spill to court.

Claimants can now also receive interim payments every three months and retain their right to sue, or they can seek larger, final lump-sum payments that require a longer review and an agreement not to go to court.

The fund has received more than 144,000 applications for final and interim payments as of Feb. 21.

Most victims would get lump-sum payments equal to double their documented damage for 2010.

Oyster harvesters and processors would get four times their damages suffered last year because oysters are expected to take longer to recover, according to the final methodology.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Snyder in Washington at jsnyder24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net

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