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Hundreds of accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Postlethwaite & Netterville have been hired to evaluate economic loss claims filed by victims of BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Despite BP’s public pledge that it would pay all legitimate claims in a timely fashion, here we are nearly six years later with tens of thousands of claims yet to be processed.

Blame BP, not the accountants

This inexcusable delay is the direct result of BP’s meddling in the compensation program. The company filed numerous lawsuits attempting to overturn the very settlement it drafted, negotiated and executed. BP viciously attacked Patrick Juneau, the Claims Administrator BP itself agreed was the best man for the job. And the company continues to file frivolous appeal after frivolous appeal in an attempt to delay otherwise legitimate payments.

Not surpringly, a significant number of victims have simply died while waiting for their claims to be paid. Others, because of the six year delay, no longer have access to financial records that substantiate their claims. Looking back, this all appears to be part of BP’s grand scheme. Little to no evidence remains of BP’s so-called “Commitment to the Gulf.”

In hindsight it is no surprise that the compensation program BP designed and marketed as “claimant friendly” has devolved into a war of attrition between BP and its victims. It’s no stretch to guess who will win that battle. Or is it?

“Produce the greatest economic damage compensation amount”

The soldiers in the trenches of this unholy BP war are in a position to do the right thing. I’m speaking of the accountant vendors and other claim processing professionals from PwC, Postlethwaite & Netterville, Brown Greer and other well respected companies. These folks are tasked with doing the hard work of processing claims in the face of BP’s constant threats and interference.

The overarching principle these accountants and claim processors should live by is spelled out in Section 4.3.8 of the 1,200+ page Deepwater Horizon Economic & Property Damages Settlement Agreement:

“The Claims Administration Vendors shall evaluate and process the information in the completed Claim Form and all supporting documentation under the terms in the Economic Damage Claim Process to produce the greatest economic damage compensation amount that such information and supporting documentation allows under the terms of the economic damage claim framework.” (emphasis added)

BP agreed to that very language when the company entered into the master settlement agreement. There is no ambiguity. There is no gray, just black and white. The meaning of that paragraph is crystal clear. If a vendor accountant has any question about which fork in the road to take when evaluating and valuing a victim’s claim, she must take the one that generates the “greatest economic damage compensation amount” for the claimant. If a claim could be viewed from multiple angles, resulting in a multitude of different claim values, the vendor must chose the approach that generates the “greatest economic damage compensation amount” for the claimant. Section 4.3.8 makes this abundantly clear and its inclusion was a crucial part of the benefit of the bargain negotiated into this settlement.

Further, Section 4.3.7 requires Claims Administration vendors to make their best efforts to assist claimants in reaching a successful conclusion, i.e., payment of their claim:

“The Settlement Program, including the Claims Administrator and Claims Administration Vendors, shall use its best efforts to provide Economic Class Members with assistance, information, opportunities and notice so that the Economic Class Member has the best opportunity to be determined eligible for and receive the Settlement Payment(s) to which the Economic Class Member is entitled under the terms of the Agreement.” (emphasis added)

Reading Sections 4.3.7 and 4.3.8 together leave no doubt that the claimant should always be treated more favorably than BP. If the tie goes to the runner in baseball, the accountant vendors should make sure it goes to the claimant in this process.


  1. Gravatar for Joey Cunningham

    When do you think the remaining claims will be settled and paid?? I am a CPA in MS and have several agriculture clients that have claims filed.

  2. Gravatar for Anonymous


    BP has scared these reviewers into doing everything but what you suggest. The process has become painstaking. Now, more than three years after the settlement, some requests for information go back 8 years. BP should be punished for going back on their original agreement.


    I am a CPA in MS as well. We have seem movement on many of our ag clients. Some approved, some denied, and many requests for info. I sill believe it will be a couple of more years until they are all resolved.

  3. Gravatar for Autumn

    We have so many claims that are three years old and still untouched that it's disgusting..... and a majority of our clients claims are in Zone D and only pass the Decline-Only Causation Testing. They are denying all of our Zone D claims for "failure to submit documentation showing why the claimant failed to collect revenues in 2011".... well I've submitted letters and articles pointing to the Great Recession as another factor as to why our clients couldn't collect in 2011 and they're still being denied. The settlement doesn't specify what documents are required for this, instead it only lists examples. I submitted what they asked for yet it's not good enough! I am so frustrated with BP denying all of my clients for this exact reason. I have poured my heart and soul into writing letters to defend my clients only to be denied again and again for clients that have legitimate claims. I'm about ready to pull my hair out. I don't know what to do and my boss does not want to put any money into filing appeals.... any guidance or knowledge is GREATLY appreciated. Thank you!

  4. Gravatar for Dave

    I agree that they should do what will result in the best compensation, but BP has made so many issues that I believe the vendors are like a deer in headlights now. I had to appeal a denial and won the appeal. I credit my success that I quoted those sections of the agreement and made my argument so clear that there was no way I could've been denied. I also have experienced that the lower level processors are young recent college graduates. Not to knock these workers, but they are so green to the industry that they simply don't have the years of experience like a seasoned CPA. So when the claimant has more knowledge than the claim processor, it becomes frustrating. The policy 495 is the best example. How many claims trigger one of the criteria and automatically are run through the applied method. As Tom has pointed out, the criteria simply require the claim to be further analyzed NOT deemed unmatched automatically. What I want to see are some appeals that support that a claim triggered one of the criteria BUT was still deemed significantly matched.

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