Kenneth Feinberg

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Kenneth Feinberg
Kenneth Feinberg.JPG
Feinberg in 2007.
Born Kenneth Roy Feinberg
(1945-10-23) October 23, 1945 (age 72)
Brockton, MA
Nationality American
Occupation Attorney
Known for Special Master, September 11th Victim Compensation Fund
Special Master for Executive Compensation
Spouse(s) Diane Shiff (3 children)[1]

Kenneth Roy Feinberg (born October 23, 1945) is an American attorney, specializing in mediation and alternative dispute resolution. Feinberg was appointed Special Master of the U.S. government's September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and served as the Special Master for TARP Executive Compensation. Additionally, Feinberg recently served as the government-appointed administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund. Feinberg was appointed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to administer the One Fund—the victim assistance fund established in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Most recently, Feinberg was retained by General Motors to assist in their recall response and by Volkswagen to oversee their U.S. compensation of VW diesel owners affected by the Volkswagen emissions scandal . Kenneth Feinberg is also an adjunct professor at the Columbia University School of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, New York University School of Law, the University of Virginia School of Law and at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Life and career

Feinberg was born in Brockton, Massachusetts.[2] He received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1967 and a law degree from the New York University School of Law in 1970. He worked for five years as an administrative assistant and chief of staff for U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy and as a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney General. Before founding his own firm The Feinberg Group (now Feinberg Rozen, LLP) in 1993, he was a founding partner at the Washington office of Kaye Scholer LLP.

Feinberg has served as Court-Appointed Special Settlement Master in cases including Agent Orange product liability litigation, Asbestos Personal Injury Litigation and DES Cases. Feinberg was also one of three arbitrators who determined the fair market value of the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination and was one of two arbitrators who determined the allocation of legal fees in the Holocaust slave labor litigation. He is a former Lecturer-in-Law at a number of U.S. law schools.

Feinberg is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.[3]

Feinberg and his wife, Diane ("Dede") Shaff, have three children[4] and three grandchildren.[citation needed]

September 11th Victim Compensation Fund

Appointed by Attorney General John Ashcroft to be Special Master of the fund, Feinberg worked for 33 months entirely pro bono. He developed the regulations governing the administration of the fund and administered all aspects of the program, including evaluating applications, determining appropriate compensation and disseminating awards.

Early in the process he was described as aloof and arrogant. Feinberg was subjected to some very public criticism at meetings, in the media and on Web sites.[5] "I underestimated the emotion of this at the beginning", Feinberg has said. "I didn't fully appreciate how soon this program had been established after 9/11, so there was a certain degree of unanticipated anger directed at me that I should have been more attuned to."[6]

It was up to Feinberg to make the decisions on how much each family of a 9/11 victim would receive. Feinberg had to estimate how much each victim would have earned in a full lifetime. If a family accepted the offer, it was not possible to appeal. Families unhappy with the offer were able to appeal in a nonadversarial, informal hearing to present their case however they wanted. Feinberg personally presided over more than 900 of the 1,600 hearings. At the end of the process, $7 billion was awarded to 97 percent of the families.

"It's a brutal, sort of cold, thing to do. Anybody who looks at this program and expects that by cutting a U.S. Treasury check, you are going to make 9/11 families happy, is vastly misunderstanding what's going on with this program," said Feinberg. "There is not one family member I've met who wouldn't gladly give back the check, or, in many cases, their own lives to have that loved one back. 'Happy' never enters into this equation."[6]

Feinberg was able to change the mind of some of his harshest critics. Charles Wolf, whose wife died in the north tower, renamed his highly critical Web site called "Fix the Fund" to "The Fund is Fixed!". At first he called Feinberg "patronizing, manipulative and at times, even cruel." Later he said, "To have one of your sharpest critics follow through on a promise and not only join the program he was criticizing, but promote it to his peers, says a lot about you and the way you have adjusted both the program and your attitude...Today, I have complete faith in you."

In 2005 his book, titled What is Life Worth?: The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11 was published.

Feinberg wrote that a widow of one firefighter cursed him “I spit on you, and your children.” for being unfair in his compensation awards .[7]

On June 17, 2005, he was honored by his hometown of Brockton by having a road named after him: Attorney Ken Feinberg Way.

Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund

On July 5, 2007, it was announced that Feinberg would work pro bono as the chief administrator to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund (HSMF). The HSMF was set up by the Virginia Tech Foundation in the aftermath of the April 16, 2007, shooting attacks on the Virginia Tech campus. Feinberg and the university plan to disseminate a set of proposals for comment about distributions to the families in mid-July. The victims or families will have options on the ultimate uses of the funds. Payments would be completed sometime during the fall.[8]

Special Master for Executive Compensation

On June 10, 2009, Feinberg was appointed by the U.S. Treasury Department to oversee the compensation of top executives at companies which have received federal bailout assistance.[9] As part of his policies, he has suggested to many bank executives that they emphasize long-term stock compensation rather than cash payments.[10]

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, in a statement about Feinberg's rulings on executive pay, said, "We all share an interest in seeing these companies return taxpayer dollars as soon as possible, and Ken today has helped bring that day a little bit closer."[11][12]

BP oil spill fund

On June 16, 2010, it was reported that Feinberg was to run a $20 billion fund to pay claims for the BP oil spill.[13] President Obama said that the $20 billion from BP "will not be controlled by either BP or by the government. It will be put in an escrow account administered by an impartial, independent third party." Obama said he and BP's chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, agreed on having Feinberg administer the fund.[14] Feinberg was also selected by Obama to oversee the compensation of top executives at bailed out banks.

BP is currently paying Feinberg's six-lawyer Washington, D.C., firm, Feinberg Rozen, a flat fee of $1,250,000 a month for labor and overhead costs, but the full details of compensation are unknown.[15] Feinberg has come under harsh criticism[16] from public interest groups for refusing to disclose the amount of his compensation or the details of his arrangement with the company.[17]

On December 6, 2010, the Center for Justice & Democracy (CJ&D) sent a letter[18] to Robert Dudley, the CEO of BP, concerning "serious new issues raised about the lack of transparency and potential conflicts of interest related to the administration of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility." In the letter, CJ&D pointed out actions taken by Feinberg in the administration of the compensation fund that point to serious conflicts of interest:

"Mr. Feinberg, employed by BP, has decided on his own authority that all claims recipients must release all companies who caused this disaster from any and all legal responsibility, no matter how grossly negligent they were. This sweeping release, which assigns victims’ claims to BP, benefits only one actor: BP – the company that happens to pay Mr. Feinberg's salary."

In January 2011, Judge Barbier, the federal judge over the oil spill litigation, after hearing evidence and arguments of the attorneys, ruled that Kenneth Feinberg was not independent of BP and could no longer claim to be so. Feinberg had been telling victims he was their lawyer and did not answer to BP.

The letter also criticized Feinberg's lack of transparency in the matter of compensation:

"Despite repeated calls for the release of documents establishing the formal relationship between BP and Feinberg Rozen, as well as its subcontractors who are reviewing and adjudicating claims, almost nothing has been publicly released. And now we learn, as reported by Reuters on November 22, 2010, that BP and Feinberg Rozen consider their arrangement 'verbal,' i.e., they have not committed to writing the firm’s compensation arrangement so there can be no public examination of it. Is the public to believe that there is no paper evidence at all documenting a $10 million per year financial arrangement between BP and Feinberg Rozen? What about the contracts between BP, Feinberg Rozen and the subcontractors who are advising and adjudicating claims and also being paid directly by BP? Surely these contracts must be in writing and released. This failure to release the terms of all these financial arrangements under circumstances of tremendous historic and public significance is simply unacceptable."

Penn State settlement

It was announced on September 12, 2012, that Feinberg was hired by Penn State University to aid in the settlement of dozens of personal injury claims against the institution stemming from the sex abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky.[19] Four months later, Feinberg said that he expected settlement discussions with 28 people to yield results within a matter of weeks.[20]

Aurora victim relief fund

Feinberg oversaw the disbursement of donations to the injured victims and families of the deceased in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting that left 12 people dead and 70 others wounded.[21]

One Fund Boston

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino appointed Feinberg to run The One Fund Boston, the central fund to gather donations for the marathon bombing victims. The explosions killed three people and wounded more than 260. An MIT police officer was later killed in a shootout with the bombing suspects.[22]

The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation

In June 2013, Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation was given permission from the Connecticut Attorney General to hand out $7.7 million of the fund. A committee of three, headed by a retired U.S. District Court, was being advised by Kenneth Feinberg.[23]

General Motors car recall

On April 1, 2014, General Motors announced it had retained Feinberg to handle part of its response to a widely-reported product safety recall. GM said Feinberg would serve as a consultant "to explore and evaluate options in its response to families of accident victims whose vehicles are being recalled for possible ignition switch defects."[24]


  • Feinberg, Kenneth (June 2012). Who Gets What: Fair Compensation after Tragedy and Financial Upheaval. New York City: PublicAffairs. ISBN 9781586489779. 

See also


  1. Time. October 23, 2009,8599,1903547,00.html.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. " Compensation Czar Kenneth Feinberg". Time. October 23, 2009. Retrieved February 21, 2010. 
  3. Mooney, Brian C. (January 10, 2011). "JFK Library Foundation CEO steps down". Boston Globe. 
  4. Swidey, Neil (February 1, 2004). "Judge, Jury, Exchequer". Boston Globe. 
  5. "The Law Report - 15July2008". ABC Radio interview transcript. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 ABC News. "ABC News Person of the Week Article on Feinberg". Retrieved January 26, 2007. 
  7. Feinberg, Kenneth. What is Life Worth?: The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11 (2005), Perseus Books Group, p 56.
  8. Hincker, Larry (2007-07-05). "Administrator of 9/11 victim compensation fund to administer Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund distributions". Virginia Tech. Retrieved 2007-07-05. 
  9. Labaton, Stephen (June 10, 2009). "Obama Names Overseer to Set Pay at Rescued Companies". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  10. Goldman, Julia (February 10, 2010). "Obama Doesn't ‘Begrudge' Bonuses for Blankfein, Dimon (Update1)". Bloombergnews. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  11. Reuters, Oct. 22, 2009
  12. Romero, Frances (October 23, 2009). "Compensation Czar Kenneth Feinberg". Time. 
  14. The New York Times  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  15. Pressure on Kenneth Feinberg to disclose BP pay deal, Reuters:
  17. "Most Popular E-mail Newsletter". USA Today. February 3, 2011. 
  19. "Penn State hires Ken Feinberg". September 20, 2012. 
  20. "Penn State says Sandusky settlements appear close". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. January 25, 2013. 
  21. "Ken Feinberg announces payment plan for Aurora theater shooting victims". Denver Post. 15 October 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  22. "Kenneth Feinberg helps marathon bomb victims get on with their lives close". McPherson Sentinel. McPherson, Kansas. May 6, 2013. 
  23. Eaton-Robb, Pat (2013-06-03). "Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation To Begin Distribution To Victims' Families". Huffington Post. Associated Press. 
  24. "GM Press Release". Retrieved 1 April 2014. 

External links