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'Give BP Some Credit': Feinberg

A sign warns the public away from the beach on Grand Isle, Louisiana. With oil covering many of the beaches, officials closed them to the public indefinitely on Saturday. Officials now say that it may be impossible to clean the coastal wetlands affected by the massive oil spill that continues gushing in the Gulf of Mexico.
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A sign warns the public away from the beach on Grand Isle, Louisiana. With oil covering many of the beaches, officials closed them to the public indefinitely on Saturday. Officials now say that it may be impossible to clean the coastal wetlands affected by the massive oil spill that continues gushing in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP deserves acknowledgement for payments it has already made to residents of the Gulf of Mexico region and its agreement last week with the federal government to fund a $20 billion compensation account, Ken Feinberg, BP escrow account administrator, told CNBC Monday.

“Give BP some credit here,” said Feinberg. “BP , unlike all these other funds that I’ve worked on, already has a claims process in place. They have paid out over $100 million in claims.”

Feinberg was appointed by President Obama last week to dole out payments to those affected by the spill, which began April 20 with the deadly Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 workers.

Since then, the oil gushing from the leak has closed beaches, killed wildlife and brought businesses to a standstill. Feinberg also administered the funds for TARP and victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Separate from the $20 billion compensation fund, those affected by the disaster can now apply for emergency funds, without forfeiting their right to sue BP at a later date. Victims who receive money from the compensation fund, however, must give up their right to litigate against BP.

Feinberg told CNBC Sunday that by agreeing to the $20 billion compensation fund, BP was taking first steps to limit its liability.

Feinberg agreed with comments a lawyer had made earlier on CNBC, who said he would advise his clients not to sign away their right to sue BP since the details are unclear.

“One of the goals I’ve got in the next few weeks and months is to make it very clear,” said Feinberg. He plans to clarify the process so that claimants understand it and exactly how much money they will be receiving, should they choose to accept payment from the $20 billion fund.

Feinberg noted that some 97 percent of all eligible death claimants entered the 9/11 fund, rather than sue, with only 94 people litigating. “I’m hoping that we corral and bring into this [BP compensation] fund as many people as voluntarily want to enter the fund, rather than spend years litigating in court."