How BP Got Screwed on Gulf Oil Spill Claims - Businessweek
Until this year, Tampa attorney Kevin McLean specialized in suing nursing homes for neglecting patients. In January he switched the focus of his practice to a fund BP (BP) established to compensate business losses from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In its attempt to dilute a legal and public-relations mess of epic proportions, BP began paying claims within weeks of the disaster and has so far spent more than $25 billion for cleanup and compensation. That hasn’t stemmed demands for more. The installation last year of a particularly generous claims administrator prompted scores of additional plaintiffs’ attorneys to swarm onto the scene, signing up a new wave of clients, many located far from the once-sullied shoreline. Just five months after his pivot, McLean’s three-attorney firm has 260 clients with claims ranging from $20,000 to $4 million apiece. “The craziest thing about the settlement,” he wrote in a solicitation letter, “is that you can be compensated for losses that are UNRELATED to the spill.”
One of McLean’s clients, a real estate agent in Brandon, Fla., an hour from the Gulf, wants $80,000 from BP, reflecting a revenue dip in 2010 that “had nothing to do with the spill,” the attorney candidly admits. (The culprit was the bursting of the Florida real estate bubble.) Under the settlement, though, “that’s a good claim,” McLean says, “and we’re going to get paid.”
He has millions of reasons to be confident. A construction company in northern Alabama, 200 miles from the coast, was recently awarded $9.7 million, even though it does no work near the Gulf of Mexico, according to court records. Attorneys are submitting claims ON THEIR OWN BEHALF. A law office in CENTRAL LOUISIANA that actually enjoyed improved profits in 2010 collected $3.3 million. The compensation process is confidential, so claimants’ identities aren’t a matter of public record, though the amounts are.
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The last three paragraphs of the article follows and provides information on Tarpon Springs, Fl. Apparently there are still some honest community leaders in a few communities In Florida. Congratulation to the Tarpon Springs city administration for not capitulating to the dozen law firms trying entice you into being a party to making fraudulent claims. Visit Tarpon Springs. http://www.tarponspringschamber.org/
Not every eligible claimant is extending an open palm in BP’s direction. While cities all along Florida’s west coast, from Tampa to Key West, have filed claims, Tarpon Springs (pop. 23,000) has decided to sit tight. It relies heavily on fishing and tourism, but Macondo oil did not reach its marinas, says City Manager Mark LeCouris. “I’d love to have an extra $1 million or $2 million or $3 million for the budget,” he concedes. “We just couldn’t document any losses related to BP, as opposed to the difficult times generally from the economy.”
The oil company’s money, LeCouris continues, should go to “shrimpers or fishermen or restaurant owners who can really show they were shut down and need the help. We didn’t want to take anything away from people who were really hurting as a result of the spill.” After Tarpon Springs’ reticence received some local press coverage this spring, LeCouris braced for the worst. “I thought we’d have a lot of people angry at us that we didn’t get whatever we could,” he says. To his surprise, a lot of Tarponians congratulated him on doing the right thing.
The main protest came from the dozen or so law firms seeking to take the city’s case in exchange for a fat contingency fee, LeCouris says. “They just kept calling and calling, telling us to do something. We said we didn’t think we had a case, so no thanks.”