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Oil spill fund critics say rules favor BP

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BOB MOON: The $20 billion compensation fund for victims of the big Gulf oil spill opens for business today. Thirty-five offices across the Gulf states
will begin to accept claims from people and businesses that lost money due to the disaster. The man in charge of the payouts is promising fairness and more generous treatment than claimants might get by suing BP for damages.

But some are already complaining about the fine print. Marketplace’s Amy Scott has the latest.


AMY SCOTT: Critics are worried some rules favor BP. Anyone who opts for a lump sum settlement later this year will give up the right to sue the company. Those who file claims for short-term emergency payments can still take BP to court.

In a conference call with reporters yesterday, the head of the fund, Kenneth Feinberg, said the restriction was his idea because it gets money into people’s hands faster.

KENNETH FEINBERG: It is not in your interest to tie up you and the courts in years of uncertain protracted litigation when there is an alternative.

You may remember Feinberg as the so-called pay czar, appointed to oversee executive compensation at bailed-out banks. He also ran the 9/11 victims compensation fund, where he placed similar restrictions on the money.

Still, victims may still be able to sue other companies involved in the spill after the six-month mark. They include the owner of the rig and several contractors.

Hundreds of lawsuits have already been filed related to the spill. BP has paid out $375 million in compensation separate from the fund that opens today.

I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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