(MONTGOMERY)-Attorney General Troy King warns the citizens of Alabama to be extremely cautious as they navigate the official claims process for damages caused by the BP oil spill.
"I am deeply concerned that people may be misled by statements that Claims Administrator Kenneth Feinberg has made, which quite frankly, are simply not true," said Attorney General King.
"While Mr. Feinberg may represent himself as a fiduciary acting in the best interests of the people of our State under the authority of the United States government, it is important to remember that he works for BP and is paid an $850,000 monthly fee by BP, and his statements need to be considered in that light."
"With the period for emergency payment claims drawing to a close on November 23, citizens are soon moving into the final part of the claims process where they will be required to permanently waive their rights if they choose to receive a final lump sum payment," said Attorney General King.
Already, alarms have been raised by the slow rate at which payments have been made, the numbers that have not been paid at all, and those that have been reimbursed for only a small percentage of the actual damage claimed.
Most troubling, however, are some of the misrepresentations that Mr. Feinberg has made to Gulf Coast citizens regarding his relationship to the oil spill victims.
He has described himself as a fiduciary for the people of the gulf, and that he is working for the people of the gulf. A "fiduciary," however, is someone with a heightened duty to act in another's best interests. Mr. Feinberg has not assumed that duty,or acted as such, in spite of some of his statements.
"Mr. Feinberg is telling people that they will receive a better deal through the claims process than if they go to court, and that his is the best avenue for fair reimbursement," said Attorney General King.
"First of all, he is not acting as your lawyer, and thus cannot give you legal advice as to what you would get in court. Secondly, there is no way that he can know what you would get in court, and each citizen must give deep and serious thought to his own situation and what is the best way to proceed. It is unfortunate, but clear to me, that our citizens cannot simply accept Mr. Feinberg's words and follow his advice, trusting it to be in their best interest. In some cases, it may well not be so."
General King urges citizens affected by the oil spill to be careful before deciding to waive their rights in exchange for a lump sum payment.
"As we have repeatedly said in numerous contexts, citizens should always carefully read any documents before signing them. Don't accept a deal and sign an agreement just because the person on the other end of the table tells you that it is a good deal."