I’ll be curious to see the details of this $20 billion fund BP has agreed to set up. I’ve seen various reports as to its intended purpose, among them: making sure there’s still money for victims even if BP goes belly up (would creditors let that stand?), making the claims process easier for victims, and getting payment to victims faster.
None of those are necessarily mutually exclusive objectives, but they don’t get to the heart of the matter: What’s the standard for paying claims?
Let’s face it, BP isn’t willingly forking over $20 billion for a third party to decide what fair and reasonable compensation is. BP will want claims to meet some agreed-upon standard before they are paid. I imagine BP will also want payment of a claim to end the company’s liability to that claimant. In other words, claimants get one bite at the apple; they don’t get to dip from the fund and then turn around and sue BP.
The tell may be that the fund is being referred to as an escrow account. That suggests that certain external conditions have to be met in order for the money to be collected. In that sense it would be different from the 9/11 victims compensation fund, which was run by Kenneth Feinberg, who’s now been tapped to run the BP fund, too.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.