Breaking New Ground

When Kenneth Feinberg was appointed to politicize oversee the BP restitution process, many of us were worried that even under the best of circumstances, the government was forfeiting confidence in the process to gain some expediency.  Now, it turns out that Feinberg was worried, too:

BP money is being used to pay $950 an hour to a law professor who has declared the administrator of the $20 billion claims fund for Gulf oil spill victims independent of the oil giant.Fund czar Ken Feinberg said Thursday he has agreed to pay New York University professor Stephen Gillers for his advice. Since being hired, Gillers has written a letter stating that Feinberg is neutral and not subject to BP’s direction or control.

“Is he being paid by BP money? Yes,” Feinberg said. “Who else is going to pay for the entire cost of this program? You can’t ask claimants to pay, you can’t ask states and federal governments to pay. The buck stops with BP and BP has agreed to pay the entire cost of the infrastructure of this program.”

Actually, Mr. Feinberg, the buck doesn’t stop with BP.  It stops with you, and it started stopping with you the moment you took on the role of sole arbiter of these claims.

BP is one of the parties to the arbitration and has no business paying an extortionist ethicist to determine the ethical behavior of the arbitrator.  Histrionics and legal theatrics aside, why on earth should the people putting in claims have any faith in the results of his “analysis?”  Which means that the government hasn’t even gotten Feinberg the appearance of ethics.

Of course, courts are considered honest brokers, with appropriate levels of review, without having to pay extortionist rates to college professors to tell them how to behave.

All of this could have been avoided if the administration had played against type and decided to follow existing law, rather than making it up as it goes along.

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