Pressure on Kenneth Feinberg to disclose BP pay deal

Monday, November 22, 2010

NEW YORK Nov 22 (Reuters Legal) - There has never been anything quite like Kenneth Feinberg's $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility. Established to compensate victims of the BP Plc oil disaster, it essentially invests one man with full power over how the money is distributed, while he is being paid by the company and unsupervised by any government body.

Now pressure is intensifying for Feinberg to fully disclose his fee arrangement with BP. But interviews with experts in dispute resolution and legal ethics suggest that Feinberg is under no obligation to unveil anything about his deal with BP -- and in fact, in a report released last month, he disclosed more than he had to. A Reuters Legal analysis found that Feinberg is operating in a gray area not governed by rules that typically apply to arbitrators or fund administrators.

Some members of Congress, lawyers for claimants and public-interest groups contend Feinberg should tell the public how much he is personally earning from the oil company, suggesting the compensation agreement could tempt him to process claims more slowly in order to extend the lucrative arrangement. "Is there a financial incentive to slow the pace down?" said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a liberal Washington, D.C., public-interest group. "It's something that needs to be examined."

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