This week on our Masters in Business interview, we speak with attorney and mass tort mediator Ken Feinberg, perhaps best known as the Special Master for September 11th Victims Compensation Fund. Feinberg also oversaw the funds set up by such events as the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund and the GM ignition cases*.
He is the author of such books as What Is Life Worth?: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Fund and Its Effort to Compensate the Victims of September 11th and Who Gets What: Fair Compensation after Tragedy and Financial Upheaval.
Feinberg looked at the 9/11 fund as an “act of patriotism;” he and his staff worked pro bono for the full 33 months. The fund resolved 97% of all September 11th claims. He describes in detail the “debilitating personal toll” listening to the agonizing stories of loss and grief told by survivors, and what he did to cope with this tragedy. The surprisingly positive conclusion was that by helping people achieve some closure, and move on with their lives, was the best possible outcome to a horrific tragedy.
Feinberg describes what he learned about life, how random the world can be, and how the experience affected the way we all should think about using and living our all-too-brief lives. He believes that taxpayers should not fund these sorts of government victim compensation funds, and that the 9/11 fund was a “one off.”
* Feinberg also helped to settle mass torts such as the Agent Orange product liability litigation; the Asbestos Personal Injury Litigation; Dalkon Shield case;
He also oversaw the disbursement of funds for gift programs (donor not tax payer funded gift trusts) such as Boston Marathon bombing (Boston One Fund), Newton/Sandy Hook, Aurora Colorado shooting, Sandusky Penn State cases, and more.
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