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Feinberg ponders putting price tags on loss and tragedy

One of the nation’s leading lawyers, Ken Feinberg has become known as America’s “Pay Czar” in recent years. His name is familiar to many Mississippians for his role in hearing the cases of residents adversely affected by the BP oil spill. He was responsible for ruling on payments and doling them out. He is loved by some and hated by others. In his new book, he writes about his role as the arbitrator of payments for tragedy.

Feinberg’s reign as “Pay Czar” has put him front and center in some of the most complex legal disputes, including Agent Orange, asbestos, the closing of the Shoreham Nuclear Plant, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech. The book is billed as an insider account of how compensation decisions are made after major disasters; an opportunity to get to know a man whose work has affected thousands. How do you compensate someone for the loss of a loved one? What is a fair price for the loss of a livelihood? These and other ponderous questions are discussed by Feinberg in the book.

He was heralded for administering the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund and payments to Vietnam War veterans affected by Agent Orange when President Obama chose him in the summer of 2010 to be in charge of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. In an interview with David Hammer of The Times-Picayune, Feinberg said none of his prior assignments prepared him for the Gulf Coast experience.

In the book, Feinberg writes, “The BP oil spill taught me new lessons. Without political consensus and bipartisan support, which I benefited from in my earlier work, it is much more difficult to achieve success and secure public approval. The key fundamental ingredient of credibility is called into question. Claimant confidence in the program begins to waver.”

In addition to having a law firm in Washington, D.C., Feinberg is an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and the University of Virginia.


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About Lynn Lofton

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