The escrow fund established to compensate victims of BP's (BP
) Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been criticized for processing claims too slowly. Kenneth Feinberg (pictured), who oversees the $20 billion facility, responded to those accusations of tardiness on Saturday with a series of statements about the program's future plans.
"Over the past few weeks, I have heard from the people of the Gulf, elected officials, and others that payments remain too slow and not generous enough," Feinberg said in a statement
. "I am implementing new procedures that will make this program more efficient, more accelerated and more generous."
Only about $400 million of the fund's balance has been paid out so far. That represents compensation for about 30,000 claims. The question that neither Feinberg or his critics can answer completely is whether there's any mechanism which could be set up to process claims any faster.
BP is powerless to step up the pace of the payment of claims. It may rue the day it passed that authority, under pressure, to the U.S. government. Every claim that's paid in full involves an agreement not to sue BP, so the longer the process takes, the greater the risk to BP.