Emeril John Lagasse is much more than just a celebrity chef. “Emeril’s Empire,” as an article in Cigar Aficionado described his business operations, consists of restaurants, cookware, cookbooks, television shows and food product sales exceeding $150 million annually. So why then has BP accused the culinary mastermind, whose business is headquartered in New Orleans, the epicenter of the economic fallout from the oil spill, of somehow enjoying a windfall from the company’s Deepwater Horizon Settlement Claims Program?
BP recently took out a full page ad in the New York Times in which the company accused Emeril of gaming its claims program for business losses suffered after the spill. In the ethically suspect advertisement (the claims program is supposed to be confidential), BP questions the $8 million paid to Emeril’s company after it applied for spill related damages. BP intimates in the ad that $8 million is some sort of obscene amount, yet it represents only 5% of Emeril’s total annual revenue.
It is important to keep in mind that tourism-centric businesses like Emeril’s were supposed to be squarely in the sites of the claims program and were intended to be compensated generously. If one of the largest restaraunters in the Gulf region is an illegitimate claimant in the eyes of BP, who then is legitimate?
You can bet that Emeril’s seafood acquisition costs skyrocketed after the spill, while demand at his restaurants fell through the floor as tourist didn’t show up. The $8 million payment was calculated by applying compensation formulas designed by BP. For the company to now say such payment is “too much” is disingenuous.
In addition, in exchange for payment, Emeril must release BP from any and all future liability associated with the spill. Should the oil that was never collected return to the beaches, devastating tourism again, or the disbursement chemicals destroy the Gulf ecosystem and associated seafood industry, Emeril and all others who accepted payment will be barred from further recovery. Most would say that is a fair exchange.
And for what it is worth, the neutral, third party Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau sided with Emeril, stating:
“This claim satisfied those requirements agreed upon by BP and Class Counsel. BP appealed the Program’s determination. Since the award amount was greater than one million dollars, the appeal was presented to a three person appeal panel as per the Settlement Agreement. The Appeal Panelists affirmed the determination of the program and concluded that the claim was correctly processed under the terms agreed upon by BP and the class counsel.”
Maybe BP needs to accept the fact that it cannot be judge, jury and executioner.
12/20 Update: Times-Picayune Editorial Board Blasts BP
In a harshly worded editorial, New Orlean’s venerable Times-Picayune newspaper took BP to task for its misleading advertisement featuring Emeril. The Editorial Board condemned BP’s use of a $500 million advertising budget to smear the good people and businesses of the Gulf who have done nothing but file their claims pursuant to BP’s compensation rules. Calling it a smear campaign, the newspaper says “BP officials have some nerve attacking the people of the Gulf Coast.” Adding, “If BP wants to make things right, it hasn’t even come close.”