Official: Some BP Claims Will Be Hard To Assess Melissa Block talks with Kenneth Feinberg, special master for executive pay under the TARP program, whom President Obama has assigned to oversee the BP escrow account that will compensate those financially affected by the oil spill.

Official: Some BP Claims Will Be Hard To Assess

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Kenneth Feinberg told us earlier today that he wants claims to be processed quickly.

KENNETH FEINBERG: I would hope that the program I'm establishing would continue to pay emergency payments immediately, in over a 30 to 45 day period would resolve these claims with the additional payments that would make these claimants whole.

BLOCK: And what are some of the questions that you would need answered to figure out how much money a business or a local resident might get?

FEINBERG: What do you do with a restaurant or a tourism claim or a restaurant in Omaha, Nebraska, that claims because it can't get shrimp? How do you decide some of these very thorny questions of causation?

BLOCK: Well, how do you decide those questions? That's your job now, right?

FEINBERG: I don't think it's necessarily my willy-nilly discretion that will decide this. I've got to ground my decisions in some principal legal basis.

BLOCK: Those thornier questions that you're talking about, the ones that aren't very clear cut, those sound like they may take quite some time to resolve, not the prompt time period that you're talking about.

FEINBERG: No, no, it can't take some time. People can't wait. I mean, if there's one thing that the president said when he announced the creation of this program, it can't wait. These decisions have got to be made in a matter of weeks.

BLOCK: What is the role of BP here, besides providing the money? Can they challenge claims if they don't think they're legitimate?

FEINBERG: Well, we're thinking about that. I think BP doesn't want to challenge claims. BP is hoping that this facility under my direction will independently verify legitimate claims and pay legitimate amounts. I'll be surprised if BP is going to challenge awards that I render that are principled, fact-driven, corroborated. I don't think BP is going to want to challenge those awards.

BLOCK: And the people who get the money through this claims process, do they still have the right to sue BP if they want to further down road?

FEINBERG: They certainly have the right now with these early interim payments. Once we offer in the independent claims facility a fixed total amount that will be made available to a claimant, then I think the claimant probably - although this hasn't been finalized - but I think the claimant probably will have to provide an agreement that in return for that ultimate compensation, there will be no suits.

BLOCK: When you think about the work you've done on the other funds that you've handled, say, the 9/11 Victims Fund, the fund for the families of folks who were shot in Virginia Tech, does this job before you now seem more straightforward in a way? You're not having, for example, to determine the value of a human life if you're talking about economic loss?

FEINBERG: I mean, these are issues that arise in every one of these facilities that are different but they pose similar challenges, and we'll have to work our way through all of them.

BLOCK: Kenneth Feinberg, thank you very much.

FEINBERG: Thank you.

BLOCK: Kenneth Feinberg has been appointed by President Obama to run the BP oil spill independent claims facility.

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