Taking note of “hundreds of lawyers rushing to capitalize on the calamity” when the BP oil spill feeding frenzy began three years ago, we asked this rhetorical question: “Will their crusades restore the alleged losses of their clients, remediate the environmental damage, or prevent future disasters?”
“Probably not,” we answered our own question, “but they will keep the lawyers busy and make many of them far wealthier than they already are.”
We predicted that thousands of claims filed by the likes of Beaumont’s Brent Coon and Houston’s Tony Buzbee “will accomplish little for anyone but Coon and Buzbee and the colleagues competing with them for a share in the shakedown. Just as happened with tobacco and asbestos, narrow self-interest will trump the common good, lawyers will make millions, their clients will reap next to nothing for their troubles, legitimate businesses will be bled dry and destroyed, and shareholders and employees will lose their investments and their jobs.”
A recent in-depth article in Bloomberg Businessweek confirms our pessimistic prediction.
“In its attempt to dilute a legal and public-relations mess of epic proportions, BP began paying claims within weeks of the disaster and has so far spent more than $25 billion for cleanup and compensation,” the magazine reports. “That hasn’t stemmed demands for more. The installation last year of a particularly generous claims administrator prompted scores of additional plaintiffs’ attorneys to swarm onto the scene, signing up a new wave of clients, many located far from the once-sullied shoreline.”
The article cites claims accepted for remuneration despite their tenuous connection to the spill and notes that much of the money provided by BP for environmental remediation will instead be spent by state and local governments on pet projects like stadiums and convention centers.
We know that too many of our fellow citizens find the temptation to turn a fast buck irresistible. But prominent public figures and government officials should discourage those base impulses, not adopt them.