In the end of March of 2012, the federal judge who is overseeing the various legal proceedings involving the Deepwater Horizon oil spill announced that he was relieving Kenneth Feinberg of his responsibilities as administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility and putting one of Feinberg’s direct reports in charge pending the assignment of a new administrator. This act came just eighteen months after the Gulf Coast Claims Facility was set up by President Barack Obama and assigned the task of distributing BP Oil Company funds to those residents of the Gulf region who had been impacted by the devastation of the oil spill. During those eighteen months Feinberg oversaw the dispensation of $6.2 billion dollars of BP Oil Company’s money into the hands of those who were most in need, but of the 220,000 claims that were paid out, some 7,300 were determined to have been underpaid, and many other claimants feel that they were erroneously denied compensation. Still others feel that they were unfairly treated at the hands of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, and object to having been required to sign release funds that cut off their opportunity for any further claims against the oil company. The announcement of the change in administrative responsibilities came just days before an agreement was reached between BP Oil and plaintiffs who had chosen not to file claims through the GCCF, and who had pending class action suits.
The transition period between the claims process that was run through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility was short. Patrick Juneau, a mediator who is originally from Louisiana, took over the reins of the GCCF and though there was a brief period when the rate of payments slowed, after two weeks the payments were made on a relatively speedy basis, with payments of 60% of the amount that Feinberg had agreed to being paid out and 40% held until the final terms and calculations of the settlement agreement received preliminary approval from Judge Carl Barbier. Once those numbers were calculated, claimants were able to choose whether they wanted to take the 40% of the balance of Feinberg’s offer, or the difference in the calculation from the terms of the new settlement. The Deepwater Horizon Court Supervised Settlement Agreement was structured to be more generous in the amounts that it is paying out than the GCCF had been.