Ivan T. Thornton
Founder and Senior Managing Partner of Fiduciary Management Group, LLC
Notice the increase in BP commercials on television lately? You know, the ones that show pristine beaches, people gallivanting in the water, "locals" claiming that all is well in the Gulf following the devastating explosion and oil spill in April of 2010 that released 4.9 million barrels of crude oil and gas into the ocean, killing 11 and injuring 17 others while virtually shutting down the seafood industry in the area? The commercials that show BP employees rattling off a bunch of statistics about the improvements that have been made since the spill? These are the same employees that appear at black tie events exclaiming their company's commitment to communities and the environment. All of this is part of a multimillion ad spend that BP has launched to win back the public's confidence... and the right to continue drilling in the Gulf. While several of the points in the commercials regarding the effectiveness of BP's response to the horrific accident are true, allow for me to provide some balance to their story. Yes, BP has spared no expense in cleaning up the oil. Yes, the company has set aside $1 billion to restore the environment and ecosystem. However, not everyone harmed by this tragic accident has enjoyed the successful resolution the company portrays.
You see, while 30 percent of the fund has been paid out to nearly 200,000 claimants, the vast majority of the money has gone to large corporations serving the tourism industry. These companies can afford expensive accounting firms, lobbyists and lawyers to represent them when seeking compensation from BP. Who is noticeably missing from receiving compensation are many of the individuals that make up the middle class, the working poor, and the small business owners. These are the mom and pop operations, the independent shrimpers and commercial fishermen and the like. These are the people that not only work the water to make a living, but also to feed their families. These are the voiceless people who live and work in the disenfranchised communities down the bayous struggling to make ends meet. These are the people that find it difficult to navigate their way through the myriad of red tape and high hurdles to receive the compensation from the fund they so rightfully deserve.
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