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Much has been made recently about the ethics, or lack thereof, involved in filing a BP claim for a business’s economic loss associated with the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon blowout. While nearly all businesses located in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Florida and Texas are automatically candidates for participation in the settlement claims program – let me state emphatically – that only those that were affected by the spill will receive compensation. That said, the phrase “affected by the spill” seems to be at the heart of the debate with regard to the ethical merits of filing a claim.

The blowout had a profound and far reaching impact on the economy of the Gulf. Dependant on tourism in both overt and subtle ways, the business community in this region was devastated. The trickle down effect was real and the seizing up of the tourism driven economic engine was felt far and wide and well inland. But how does one account for other factors affecting the business climate at the time? What about the lingering overhang of the great recession? How do you parse the oil spill from the economy at large?

You do it with a complex forensic accounting exercise akin to a CSI episode. Do not try this at home. The determination of whether your business was “affected by the spill” should not be spit-balled or made by the untrained bookkeeper. But BP is counting on just that. BP is hoping that you will just go away. The company, in its latest media and PR campaign, has vilified those claimants whose oil spill related losses may not be obvious to the layperson, but are evident to any forensic accountant worth his or her salt. There is nothing unethical about filing a claim if you were indeed affected.

What you may not know is that if anyone is “getting something for nothing” – as BP would have us believe undeserving business owners are – it is BP. As of April 2014, all businesses and individuals in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Florida and Texas will be releasing BP for all past and future harm caused by the spill. You will be releasing BP whether you file a claim or not. You have no choice in the matter. The company is extracting that release whether you like it or not. And that release is very valuable to BP.

Should the oil that was never recovered reappear with the next hurricane and soil our beaches, once again shutting down our tourism driven economic engine, there is no recourse. BP’s hands will be washed.

Should the disbursement chemicals, which are alleged to have spawned shrimp with three eyes and transgender fish, have some as yet unknown and devastating impact on our Gulf ecosystem, BP will be long gone. In fact, the company’s response will be “Hey, you had a chance to file your claim, but you didn’t. That’s not on us. Deadline has passed. Sorry Charlie!”

What is unethical is BP getting something (the release) for nothing (their hoped for acquiescence on your part). What is unethical is BP trying to fool you with tens of millions of dollars in media buys portraying it as the victim and you as the villain. What is unethical is BP’s attempt to renege on the agreement it authored and the formulas it created.

BP is very worried about the future. BP is worried about where the uncollected oil went. BP is worried about what the company’s toxic disbursement chemicals will do the the Gulf in the years to come. BP is worried about that future liability. But by entering into this settlement agreement, the company can completely mitigate all of that risk once it gets its precious release in April 2014. Then it is sayonara baby!

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