Oil spill compensation chief says real estate agents want to collect from fund

The administrator of a $20 billion oil spill compensation fund said Wednesday he's been besieged by real estate agents and brokers, demanding that they become eligible for payments.

Kenneth Feinberg, in congressional testimony singled out the real estate agents' demands as one of many tough eligibility decisions he'll have to make in the coming weeks.

Feinberg told the House Judiciary Committee he's working only for victims, not BP or the Obama administration. Operations of the independent fund will begin next month, starting with six-month emergency checks that will be processed within a day and paid out within the next two days.

The emergency payments will not require a release from future claims. Long-term settlements — for current and future injury or loss — will require agreements to accept the offer as final payment. Victims can reject the money and pursue claims independently in court.

Feinberg said he'll need to work out a system for those who develop illnesses from the cleanup years afterward.

Feinberg said he has heard from many real estate agents and brokers about their lost income, and promised to address their concerns.

"The Realtors and real estate brokers are a major political force," he said. "I'm hearing from them constantly. I'm not sure whether they have a valid legal claim. I'm not sure they can win if they litigate.

"If I am going to do justice here, we've got to do something."