Agent Orange, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, the Virginia Tech massacre, the 2008 financial crisis, and the Deep Horizon gulf oil spill: each was a disaster in its own right. What they had in common was their aftermath—each required compensation for lives lost, bodies maimed, livelihoods wrecked, economies and ecosystems upended. In each instance, an objective third party had to step up and dole out allocated funds: in each instance, Presidents, Attorneys General, and other public officials have asked Kenneth R. Feinberg to get the job done.
In Who Gets What?, Feinberg reveals the deep thought that must go into each decision, not to mention the most important question that arises after a tragedy: why compensate at all? The result is a remarkably accessible discussion of the practical and philosophical problems of using money as a way to address wrongs and reflect individual worth.
About Kenneth R. Feinberg
Kenneth R. Feinberg, one of the nation’s leading lawyers, has been front and center in some of the most complex legal disputes of the past three decades: Agent Orange, asbestos, the closing of the Shoreham Nuclear Plant, and 9/11. He is adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and the University of Virginia.
One of the country’s leading lawyers, Feinberg (What Is Life Worth?: The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11, 2005, etc.) has become the man called upon by government and private interests to decide settlements. He also bears the brunt of criticism when things don’t go smoothly or seem to be unfair. Now he offers his side of the story. His involvement began with the 1984 settlement of the Agent Orange case. Now known as what he calls “the poster child of ‘judicial activism,’ ” the settlement compensated Vietnam veterans for alleged damages through a unique process that aroused the opposition of trial lawyers and politicians alike. It also set a pattern for Feinberg’s career, during which he has worked on a variety of public and private cases, including the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund set up after the Virginia Tech shootings of 2006, and the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund. Each of these cases has made Feinberg a figure of controversy. He took the heat from some 9/11 victims who didn’t understand how, under the law enacted, each claimant could receive a different amount because of their different potential lifetime earnings. Recently, politicians have made him a target in the BP case. Feinberg also examines the delicate process of balancing concerns about equal treatment under the law with the need to deal fairly with the special circumstances created by disasters. He stresses the importance of public involvement through hearings and meetings and the necessity of transparency. – Kirkus Reviews
“Who Gets What: Fair Compensation After Tragedy and Financial Upheaval” by Kenneth R. Feinberg
The Washington Post Book Review – July 13, 2012 (Excerpt)
When bad things happen to good people — the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Virginia Tech shootings, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill — good people want to get paid. In “Who Gets What,” lawyer and master of disaster Kenneth R. Feinberg dissects the complicated business of settling claims after calamity.
“To evaluate the value of a life or a livelihood, I must first tackle a set of far bigger philosophical questions,” writes Feinberg, who helped compensate the victims of hijacker Mohamed Atta, Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho and polluter British Petroleum without drawn-out litigation. One such questions is “Why should public or private money be used to compensate certain citizens while denying similar generosity to others?” [Read the full article...]
Finding the Price of Fairness
The New York Times Book Review – August 4, 2012 (Excerpt)
KENNETH R. FEINBERG, who styles himself as “a lawyer and mediator in one,” has made a career of handling hot potatoes and moving them from politicians’ plates to his own. At moments of national disaster, he has embraced the trying task of applying mere money to sustain and comfort the survivors and to bind the wounds of the afflicted.
Mr. Feinberg won renown with his saintly handling, working pro bono, of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, a high-profile task of ultrasensitivity. He personally conducted more than 900 hearings in which he gave survivors the chance to argue their claims, to rant, or simply to grieve.
He told that tale in an earlier book, “What Is Life Worth?”It is just one chapter in his thoughtful new book, “Who Gets What: Fair Compensation After Tragedy and Financial Upheaval” (PublicAffairs, $26.99), which chronicles his role across three decades serving as a kind of Solomon after times of national crisis.
The first case he discusses is the historic Agent Orange settlement in 1984, which broke the mold for huge lawsuits and benefited several million Vietnam veterans and their families. There are also chapters on his more recent stints: He shaped payments to families of victims of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. He acted as the Treasury Department’s special master in 2009 in reducing the pay of some top Wall Street executives after the TARP bailouts. And, finally, he devised and ran the extraordinary, $20 billion fund that BP, pushed by President Obama, set up to compensate Gulf Coast residents and businesses after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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