Settlement Claims Administrator Fires Back Against BP's "Unfounded Criticisms"
The court-appointed claims administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement program, Patrick Juneau, responded aggressively last week to claims made by BP that the process is mired in fraud. Juneau’s court filing was in response to BP’s recent motion before Judge Carl Barbier that all payments in the claims program be suspended until an investigation into fraudulent claims can be completed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.
Juneau shot back claiming that BP’s complaint was full of “spurious
allegations” and contained “broad, unfounded criticisms.”
BP has tried arguing repeatedly that the settlement claims payment system
is being abused and that businesses from across the Gulf Coast are swindling
the company out of billions of dollars in fraudulent claims. Juneau said
the idea that his office was paying such claims was baseless and he then
recounted all the ways that he has taken action to ensure the claims payments
have been handled aboveboard.
Juneau says that BP is asking the court system to protect it from “imagined harm” and that the company has gone too far in making claims of impropriety. BP claims that staff members at various claims centers have engaged in fraud, by allowing relatives to file claims and by taking a cut of other fraudulent oil spill claims. Juneau says any and all complaints have been investigated and not a single incident of abuse on the part of a claims center worker has been substantiated.
Juneau says that the claims processing system has been designed with outside companies chosen by the federal court to ensure that rigorous standards are employed before distributing any money to claimants. An outside contractor operates all the claims offices and screens all applicants to determine if they are eligible. All claims are then crosschecked for potential identity theft and then checked against both Social Security and federal income tax databases.
Juneau says hundreds of automated analytical programs scan the applications every day and if any anomaly is detected the claim is then put aside and is subjected to even further quality control review. Beyond these checks to the claims, the personnel are similarly put through rigorous screening. Juneau says staff members undergo periodic investigations to ensure they have complied with rules to guard against fraud. Additionally, programs have been created to prevent all claims reviewers from being able to check on the status of individual claims unless they are required to do so for their job. Payment data and claims applications are also analyzed regularly to check for unusual patterns.
This most recent claim of fraud appears to be yet another incident of BP crying wolf. In mid-July, BP filed a similar emergency motion in federal court asking that the claims process be suspended due to fraudulent behavior. Judge Barbier denied the motion, saying that BP had been unable to produce any evidence of fraudulent claims. We can only hope that BP’s latest ploy to get out from under the settlement it agreed to pay injured plaintiffs is similarly rejected.
If you’ve been impacted by this or any other oil spill, please don’t hesitate to contact the Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill attorneys at Kobs & Philley at toll free (601) 863-8170.
Source: “Gulf oil spill settlement claims administrator says BP’s allegations of fraud are ‘spurious,’ ‘unfounded’,” by Mark Schleifstein, published at NOLA.com.