BP assigns Black exec to oversee oil spill recovery claims

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by Gregory Dale

(NNPA)—Amidst the chaos of recovery from BP’s runaway oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, a new face has surfaced; one which does not have a British accent but instead, more visibly reflects the culture that has been severely jeopardized by the unceasing catastrophe BP has been attempting to fix—and he is African-American.

NewFaceClaims
NEW FACE—BP Director of Claims Darryl Willis, the new face on this crisis for the oil giant, talks with reporters in Bayou La Batre, Ala. on June 22.

Darryl Willis, vice president of resources for BP America, volunteered to step into the fray and will serve as the head of the company’s claims team, which collects and responds to claims of monetary damages in connection with the disaster. Willis, a native of Louisiana, is now the public face for BP and appears in a series of commercials for the company.

Appearing before a collection of U.S. senators on June 16, Willis assured Congress that the energy giant will front all of the necessary funds required to clean up the spill.

“BP is paying the bills right now,” Willis told the senators, according to CNN.com. “We are focused on making sure that the costs associated with this cleanup and spill in the Gulf of Mexico are paid and that the people who have been hurt along the Gulf Coast are compensated for their losses and any federal costs that are associated with the cleanup are paid back to the American people.”

In an appearance on CNN’s “The Situation Room,” Willis explained that some victims of the oil spill can claim a portion of the $20 billion the company has set aside for people who are severely affected. Ultimately, the funds will be handed over to an independent commission headed by Kenneth Feinberg for dispersal.

Until the $20 billion is transferred to be disbursed by Kenneth Feinberg, who is now also the special master for financial institution executive compensation, BP’s Willis is the Gulf oil recovery pay master.

He told AdAge.com, an online publication offering marketing and advertising news in an interview, “… we’re going to continue paying people. People who have been impacted by this will face a seamless transition. The checks will be signed through [Feinberg’s] organization. Right now, it’s BP signing the checks.”

In an interview with the AFRO during the week of June 21, BP representatives explained why Willis was selected to head the operation.

“Darryl is a senior BP executive who has been put in place precisely because of his skills and experience,” said David Nicholas, a spokes­man for BP. “He is handling a very difficult and challenging job very well. He’s a senior BP manager and he’s taking on a senior role in this response.”

BP has received a bit of backlash from various sources, claiming Willis’ role is a strategic public relations move. But Willis said his desire to take on the job is genuine, primarily because the spill has severely impacted his native New Orleans.

“I would say that I’m doing this because I love my job and the community I grew up in,” Willis told AdAge.com. “I’ve spent lots of time across the Gulf Coast. I care about how people are treated through this process. I’m not doing it to be a part of any PR stunt.”

(Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers)

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