The Financial Times
By Ed Crooks
New York - February 28, 2021 - A plan to use about $13bn remaining in BP’s trust fund for victims of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill to pay claimants suing the company for damages is being discussed in negotiations over a possible settlement of the legal action, according to lawyers close to the case.
The final value of a deal to resolve claims from an estimated 116,000 private sector plaintiffs could be larger or smaller than that amount, the lawyers said, but the fund is being talked about as a starting point for paying compensation to individuals and businesses.
The trial for damages and civil penalties arising from the spill, due to start on Monday, has been postponed for a week to give BP and the lawyers representing the private sector plaintiffs more time to reach a deal. A settlement of the private sector claims would still leave BP facing action from the US federal and state governments, but could help it to resolve those cases before the trial.
In June 2010, less than two months after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, BP promised $20bn for the fund. It has so far paid in $15.1bn of that, with the final payment to come this year, but the fund has distributed only about $6.7bn.
Most of that has been paid out by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, the compensation fund run by Ken Feinberg, which has reviewed claims from about 368,000 individuals and businesses and has only about 11,500 still under review. The original intention was that any excess once claims were paid would go back to BP, but lawyers representing claimants see the fund as a pot that could be used to settle their cases.
One said: “Money has been dedicated to the Feinberg fund, and it would make sense to use that to make whole people who have suffered losses because of the spill.”
BP and the plaintiffs’ steering committee refused to comment on the negotiations.