Will BP Get $10 Billion Back From Disaster Fund?

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The fund set aside for claims related to the Deepwater Horizon incident has paid out $5.551 billion to settle 359,441 claims paid to 204,434 claimants. The figures were issued as part of a report that covers the first year of operation of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

BP (NYSE: BP) put $20 billion into the fund to handle the costs of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The money was to be placed into the fund, starting in June 2010, over a period of three-and-a-half years. One of the provisions of the deal was that, “Any money left in the fund once all legitimate claims have been resolved and paid will revert to BP.”

The Gulf Coast Claims Facility is run by lawyer Kenneth Feinberg. He has regularly said that the money for legitimate claims has been paid as quickly as possible.

The facility is set to stay in place until August 2013, but the chance that BP will get billions of dollars back has grown considerably. BP has had to pay at least $1 billion for cleanup of oil from the disaster. That still leaves $13 billion. BP has had a number of lawsuits filed against it by individuals and businesses. Many of those suits will be settled, and it is hard to imagine that the sum total will go into the billions of dollars.

BP has not faced any multi-billion-dollar suits from any of the states that were affected by the spill. The U.S. government may file a large legal action for environmental violations. But it has been over a year, and the possibility of those suits fades with each day that passes.

It has been to BP’s advantage the the huge oil slick has largely dissipated, and the once-predicted threat that oil would make its way up the Eastern Seaboard never happened. Nature appears to have taken care of many of the environmental problems the leak caused. The worst-case predictions about the aftermath of Deepwater Horizon have not come true.

The August 2013 date is not terribly far away. Feinberg says the rate at which claims have been filed has dropped. Some of the claims offices set up by the fund have even closed.

BP may get $10 billion of its money back — perhaps even more.

Douglas A. McIntyre

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