BP’s legal and publicity campaign to change the terms of the BP Settlement Program was the focus of a thirteen-minute segment on the May 4th broadcast of 60 Minutes. If one looks beyond BP’s flawed facts, the true story of a company whose gross negligence caused the world’s worst oil disaster and who is now attempting to rewrite history for its own benefit is clear.
BP’s lawyer, original claims administrator and paid spokesperson all pointed to the idea that BP only intended that those businesses that “saw oil” and can prove a “direct link” to the oil spill be properly compensated under the Program. They also spun their argument that it was BP’s intent from the beginning that claimants would somehow be required to prove, beyond a financial pattern demonstrating actual losses after the spill happened, that the spill was the “direct cause” of the harms they suffered.
But, what wasn’t discussed was how this Settlement Program was never intended to be that narrow. In fact, the Program has always been designed to also provide compensation to those who were indirectly harmed by BP’s gross negligence as the economies of the Gulf Coast suffered due to no fault of business owners themselves. Isn’t that the point of a 1,000+ page Settlement Agreement and Program with a complex set of formulas that discern who qualifies and who does not? In order to qualify, a very specific drop in revenue followed by a specific rebound – in the months directly after the spill – must be proven. That is the proof. These formulas merely verify the indirect harms caused by BP to businesses, and BP now wants to avoid responsibility for them to save money.
While BP would like to limit its payments to coastal businesses, the reality is that, without tourists, the economy dropped dramatically throughout the entire region and affected all types of businesses. BP would like to retroactively create a bar so high that no one will qualify, allowing them to walk away from this disaster without denting their billions in quarterly profit.
There are a few important facts to keep in mind regarding the functionality of the Program and how it operates.
- Not even BP disputes the fact that every business within the designated zones whose financials prove economic harm under the Program’s criteria has the RIGHT to file a claim.
- The Program was the result of 145 days of negotiations between BP and Plaintiffs’ Counsel, and during which time, BP agreed repeatedly that if a business meets the financial criteria, it should qualify.
- BP was found grossly negligent. This Settlement Program was agreed to on the eve of a trial period where BP pled guilty. The 11 workers killed, the billions in lost economic revenue, the permanent damage to the eco-system – it was all a preventable tragedy.
- That 40% of all claims for harms by businesses are being denied because they cannot satisfy the rigid guidelines and rules that are built into the Program. BP isn’t publicizing all the monies they won’t have to pay to those deserving businesses due to their negotiated deal.
During the interview, BP spokesperson Geoff Morrell argued that the way the Program is being administered is not the deal they agreed to, and pointed to 1,000 claims being paid to people that qualify but shouldn’t be paid. That is 1,000 claims out of 275,000 claims filed, or less than 1%. Claims that frankly BP had a right to challenge before the Program ever paid them.
Jim Roy, a Lafayette attorney representing business owners under the Program said this: “BP doesn’t like the deal it cut now. I’m sorry about that. I can’t help that.
Claims administrator Patrick Juneau continues to defend his actions and his stance on the Program. When correspondent Scott Pelley asked him if he was facilitating fraud, something Juneau claims is nearly impossible to commit under the Program, here was his response: “I have never in my life [committed fraud]—I’m 76 years old. I’ve been to a lot of rodeos in my life. I don’t facilitate fraud. Fraud offends me.”
BP absolutely knew what it agreed to, but after claims started rolling in, it didn’t like the price tag. If there is any question about what BP intended, BP’s own letter that CBS News cited out of the Court record exposes the truth. As BP said, then, but is running from now: “If the financial data is accurate and fits the framework, then any losses are presumed to be attributable to the spill – even if nonfinancial data indicates that the decline was attributable to a factor wholly unrelated to the oil spill.”