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Who is Kenneth Feinberg?

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 Kenneth Feinberg asked to oversee distribution of funds to compensate victims and their families for injuries and death caused by faulty ignition switches in several GM cars
Kenneth Feinberg asked to oversee distribution of funds to compensate victims and their families for injuries and death caused by faulty ignition switches in several GM cars
Kenneth Feinberg is called on once again to oversee the distribution of funds to victims and their families as weak compensation for injuries and death.  On Monday June 30th, Feinberg announced details regarding the funds set aside by General Motors for the victims of accidents caused by faulty ignition switches in several GM cars. Each victim could receive anywhere from a few thousand to a few million dollars.

Born in Brockton, Massachusetts in 1945, Feinberg received his law degree from New York University School of Law in 1970. As an American attorney, Feinberg specializes in mediation and alternate dispute resolution. He has been called on multiple times to oversee victim’s compensations after tragedies.

After 9/11 Feinberg worked pro bono for 33 months as Special Master of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund.  He created the regulations to govern the administration of the fund and carried out all aspects of the program, from reviewing applications to disseminating awards.

Years later on July 5th, 2007, he volunteered his time again as the chief administrator to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund (HSMF) The Virginia Tech Foundation set up HSMF after the tragic events on campus occurred in April of that year.  On June 10th, 2009, the U.S. Treasury Department appointed Feinberg to oversee the allocation of federal bailout assistance to company top executives.

In 2010, President Obama and Carl-Henric Svanberg, chairman of BP, elected Feinberg as the perfect impartial third party to run a $20 billion fund for claims over the BP oil spill. Then again in 2012 Penn State university hired Feinberg to assist in dozens of personal injury claim settlements stemming from Jerry Sandusky’s sex abuse scandal. The same year he oversaw the disbursement of donations to those injured and the loved ones of those who died in the shooting in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

Now Feinberg skills as a mediator are called upon again in the wake of a major GM recall crisis. GM has reached a record high number of recalls this year. The number of recalls so far for 2014 is flabbergasting: near 26 million vehicles sold in the U.S., 29 million worldwide have been affected by GM’s 54 separate recall issues.

Feinberg has been hired by GM to distribute settlements to compensate those injured as a result of the initial 2014 recall for faulty ignition switches. In February and March early this year, GM recalled 2.6 million 2003-2011 GM small cars worldwide, 2.19 million of those in the U.S. At this time, the incidents involving these vehicles are the only ones covered by the fund.

Feinberg outlined the criteria for fund eligibility on Monday. According to the automaker, 54 crashes with 13 deaths are linked to the defective switches. The major malfunction has been the inadvertent rotation of the ignition switch out of the run position and into accessory, which shuts off the engine while simultaneously disabling the air bags.

A website has been set up by Feinberg for the fund; he is also sending letters to the registered owners of the 2.6 million recalled automobiles and to a million former owners. Applications for the compensation fund will be accepted starting August 1st through the end of the year. Feinberg estimates all settlements will be distributed by the middle of next year. Payment amounts will be based on a modified version of the calculations of the economic loss in human tragedy used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Feinberg has been given absolute power and free reign with no limits neither on individual claim amounts nor on the total GM fund budget. GM expects about 90% of the claims to be settled with the fund. He said, “GM delegated to me full and sole discretion to decide which claims are eligible, and how much money they should get. There are no appeals (by GM or victims).”

People, who accept a compensation settlement, agree to waive their right to sue GM. When all is said and done, Feinberg said, he will provide “a full reckoning, an audit for the public. What claims were approved, what ones denied, and why.”

Feinberg assured that he will meet with any victims or families with claims involving death or severe injuries, at their request.  In an interview with USA TODAY, Feinberg said, “Money is a pretty poor substitute for loss. … It’s the best we can do.”

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