BP VP Darryl Willis, who heads the oil giant’s claims processing, spoke at a press conference last week, vaguely telling reporters that his company would foot the bill for outstanding damages caused by the spill.
Willis has said that BP would pay all substantiated claims for businesses in close proximity to the oil spill.
Willis dodged the question and would never give a definitive answer, which seems to fit the reputation of the company -- having all the right words, but saying very little.
The company in the past has given huge numbers before anything was implemented on such things as the feet of boom, number of ships, and checks written. But IN learned that BP would be turning over all claims to the Feinberg team on the third week of this month. Any claims not paid by then will be "seamlessly" handed over to Feinberg. Willis said all claims by individuals are being processed within five days; small business claims under $5,000 are processed within nine to 10 days. I told him that we have heard large business claims are averaging 36 days. Willis didn't deny that average and said he hoped they could improve on that over the next two weeks.
In his opening remarks, Willis said that BP set up over the weekend an Immediate Action Claims Team that expedited 2,600 claims and approved $9 million to be paid this week. This sounds like a lot, but BP paid out $142 million in July, according to Willis, which is a $4.58 million-a-day average. They only paid at last month's daily rate. The average check was less than $3,500.
MORE BP SPIN Once upon a time, BP told Northwest Florida that they would make it right. Florida's claims would be paid. In fact, their representatives, including BP VP Darryl Willis, assured locals by handing out "on the spot" checks for up to $5,000 to tide them over until the paperwork on the full May claims could be sent in.
First BP said, "No claim would be denied." That changed later to "No legitimate claim would be denied." Now it's "No OPA claim will be denied."
Last week, State Sen. Don Gaetz asked BP for clarification on the claim process. Here is the email from Mary Shafer, deputy incident commander for Florida to Gaetz's aide:
From: Shafer-Malicki, Mary L (Swift)
Sent: Wed Aug 04 17:13:06 2010
Subject: RE: Senate Select Committee on FLAs Economy
Here is the official statement:
BP will make claim payments based on the time an area has been impacted due to oiled beaches. This is consistent with the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), which is guiding BP's claims process. In general, Louisiana had oiled beaches or marshes in May, while Alabama, Mississippi and Florida did not have beaches oiled until June. Specific claims will need to be discussed with adjusters who will factor in a number of criteria.
This email was sent one day after Willis held a telephone press conference. At the press conference, Willis dodged questions about this.
This is the type of misdirection that has been the BP strategy since April 20: Hold a press conference and give broad statements that reassure the public, run ads to reinforce that air of trust and commitment and then, when pressed for specifics, have an underling issue a statement that doesn't match the press conferences and ads.