APRIL 22, 2004

A photo of Kenneth R Feinberg, Special Master of the September 11th Victims' Compensation Board



A photo of Richard Matsar, NYLS Dean and President

Introductory Remarks

A photo of Sybil Shainwald, NYLS Board Member &

Keynote Speaker

A photo of Kenneth R Feinberg, Special Master of the September 11th Victims' Compensation Board, delivering his speech


A photo of Kenneth R Feinberg, Special Master of the September 11th Victims' Compensation Board

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 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. Feinberg was also 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. [1]

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 [3] and as a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney General. Before founding his own firm The Feinberg Group (now the Law Offices of Kenneth Feinberg) 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.

A photo of Kenneth R Feinberg, Special Master of the September 11th Victims' Compensation Board, delivering his speech

Feinberg was the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. [4]

Feinberg and his wife, Diane ("Dede") Shaff, have three children [5] and three grandchildren. [6]

September 11th Victim Compensation Fund

See also: September 11 attacks and 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.

The eight-part Feinberg plan

In his book titled What is Life Worth?, Feinberg described the eight-part plan which was applied to approaching the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. (i) Identifying someone with sufficient and exceptionally broad experience is mass tort action mediation, litigation, and settlement, which Feinberg possessed through his previous personal experience as a political activist and his work in the Agent Orange compensation settlement. (ii) To support and follow the unprecedented law of Congress for the proportional compensation of victims based on estimated loss from future earnings as a key legislated criterion. Hire a full staff of accountants and attorneys to track and service each claim individually. (iii) Accumulate all the reports and applications, along with counter-claims to gauge and initiate the direct compensation process. How the compensation fund worked was in detail substantially different than the Agent Orange mass tort litigation case. (iv) The place of informed discretion in compensating claimants under the formula of keeping the domain of compensation (p47 of Feinberg's book) under the rule of thumb that 85% of the money should not go to 15% of the 'richest' claimant families, under the principle of "narrow the gap" between the largest and the smallest compensations paid to claimants. (v) With a mind to the future, the process of the program should be maintained and serviced as a precedent for future courts to defend in future compensation cases as needed. The actions taken should be uniform in their approach. (vi) There would be "no substitute for hard work and legal craftsmanship" of rigorous intellectual honesty. (vii) The support of Edward Kennedy would be recognized throughout the process whom Feinberg knew since 1975 (p7-8). (viii) Law suits were to be discouraged as contrary to the spirit of an enacted Law of Congress legislated to expedite the claim process of victims of September 11. [7]

A photo of Kenneth R Feinberg, Special Master of the September 11th Victims' Compensation Board, delivering his speech

History of participation

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. [8] "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." [9]

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." [9]

A photo of Ken Feinberg, Jack Weinstein, and distinguished guests

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." He later remarked, "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. [10]

[FN 0] Biography reprinted from circa 2018
All active links to notes within the biography refer back to wikipedia

A photo of attendees of the inaugural speech in the lecture series

A photo of Sybil Shainwald and attendees of the first lecture


Feinberg, Kenneth (April 2004). University of Alabama: University of Alabama Law Review., "Lecture, University of Alabama School of Law," Transcript PDF!