Schexnaydre Law Firm, LLC

An Open Letter to Don Briggs

By David Schexnaydre, Esquire

This is an open letter to Don Briggs, President of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, who recently criticized claimants against the BP Deepwater Horizon Settlement Fund in his September 4, 2013, editorial on The Louisiana Record (www.louisianarecord.com).

As an attorney who has defended businesses for the last 22 years, I would normally be sympathetic to your position, but as an attorney who has filed claims for over 200 businesses who qualify under the terms of the BP Settlement Agreement, and who has evaluated about 75 other businesses' financial documents and determined that they DO NOT qualify, I have to disagree with you. This BP situation is different from other cases because this is a settlement agreement negotiated by the parties, presented to the public for a fairness hearing, and approved by a federal judge. What BP is complaining about now stems from its own inability to accurately estimate the number of businesses that would qualify under the formula laid out in the settlement agreement. For example, BP complains that a manufacturer in northern Mississippi (not even near the Gulf of Mexico, as you put it) qualified for over $20,000,000 even though 2010 (the year of the spill) was its best year ever. While it could be argued that such a recovery is unfair (and probably would not even have happened had the business been forced to litigate their claim and prove damages directly related to the spill), the recovery was allowed under the terms of the settlement agreement negotiated and agreed to by BP. Apparently, BP failed to negotiate a clause such as, "but if net income for 2010 exceeds net income in the prior years, then the claimant does not qualify under any circumstances." The point is that BP is now complaining about its own short-sightedness and inability to accurately predict the future. Additionally, as alluded to above, many business DO NOT qualify under the terms of the settlement agreement even though they may, in fact, have been adversely affected by the spill. So, to paint the picture that all businesses who recover funds are somehow gaming the system is unfair. To that point, had BP wanted law firms excluded from making claims under the settlement agreement, they could have negotiated that term as well, like they did when they excluded oil and gas firms, gaming business, banks, investment advisors, the insurance industry, and defense contractors. So, if you feel sorry for BP, go talk to their highly paid and very well-educated lawyers and accountants who negotiated this deal. But don't blame the businesses in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Florida for making claims pursuant to the very terms BP formulated. 

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