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Oil Spill Compensation Fund Not What it Seemed

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A compensation fund set up for the victims of the BP oil spill is not everything it’s been presented to be, according to a partner with the law firm charged with administering it. It seems BP can used the fund to pay for any costs associated with the spill including clean up and litigation.

“My present understanding is … that it is available for all manner of costs,” Michael Rozen, a partner with the Feinberg Rozen law firm, recently told Reuters.

Suspicions about the true nature of the fund were first raised last week at an Atlanta conference. During the event, environmental activist and lawyer Robert Kennedy Jr. called the fund the latest example of BP’s “subterfuge” surrounding the oil spill, and asserted that the oil giant can use the fund to pay for anything it likes.

The new revelations are disturbing, because if the fund can be used to defray BP’s cleanup costs, in the end there could be very little money left for victims. Keep in mind, BP has already spent $2.5 billion on cleanup, and it hasn’t even plugged the gushing well in Gulf of Mexico yet.

Rozen told Reuters that all legitimate claimants would be paid. But he conceded: “Twenty billion maybe isn’t sufficient for the mass of stuff that’s aired, in which case BP will have to add more. If that should be the case, people still have their rights and remedies under law.”

The compensation fund was announced with much fanfare earlier this month by the Obama administration. Kenneth Feinberg, of the Feinberg Rozen law firm, oversaw a similar fund for victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The White House has maintained that the $20 billion doesn’t represent a ceiling of what BP will pay, and has said the oil company will replenish the fund when and if the money runs out.

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