Gulf spill fund czar paying for ethics advice

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BP money is being used to pay $950 an hour to a law professor who has declared the administrator of the $20 billion claims fund for Gulf oil spill victims independent of the oil giant.

Fund czar Ken Feinberg said Thursday he has agreed to pay New York University professor Stephen Gillers for his advice. Since being hired, Gillers has written a letter stating that Feinberg is neutral and not subject to BP's direction or control.

Feinberg said the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, created to administer payments from the fund to people and businesses, is billing BP for Gillers' services.

Some victims, lawyers and state officials unhappy with the claims process have questioned Feinberg's independence and suggested he is a pawn in a BP effort to limit its liability.

A statement Thursday from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility said Feinberg asked Gillers for advice about a Nov. 24 letter from Louisiana Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell questioning the independence of the fund and Feinberg's role as the independent administrator.

In a letter to Feinberg, Gillers wrote: "You are not in an attorney-client relationship with BP. You are an independent administrator and owe none of the attributes of the attorney-client relationship (e.g., loyalty, confidentiality) to BP. By 'independent' I mean (and I think the context is clear) that you are independent of BP. You are not subject to its direction or control."

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