Overseer of US victim funds says work wrenching

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 27, 2013 at 9:37 am •  Published: April 27, 2013
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BOSTON (AP) — His work has immersed him in events that read like a roster of recent catastrophes, from 9/11 to the Gulf oil spill. Now, Kenneth Feinberg is adding the Boston Marathon bombings to that list.

The Massachusetts native and attorney is managing the payouts from The One Fund, which was established to help victims of the explosions that killed three and injured 260.

Feinberg is experienced dealing with people facing profound loss, but he doesn't seek the work.

"I must tell you every time I do one, you say to yourself, 'God I hope this is the last one," he said.

Feinberg handled victims' compensation after 9/11, the BP oil spill, the Virginia Tech shootings and the Colorado movie theater shootings, among other calamities.

He's now advising a panel distributing money after the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., and mediating Penn State's settlement discussions with the sex abuse victims of former football coach Jerry Sandusky.

The experiences are wrenching, he said. And recipients invariably resent him, thinking he's trying to put a price on the priceless things they've lost.

"Don't expect thanks or appreciation or gratitude, none of that," Feinberg said. "We have very emotional victims and you're offering them money instead of a limb, instead of the return of a family member. This is a no-win situation."

He keeps saying yes in the same spirit of those who donate, he said.

"Look at the amount of money that pours in from private people, private citizens," he said. "How do you say no if the governor calls, the mayor?"

The 67-year-old Feinberg is a native of Brockton, about 20 miles south of Boston, and his Washington D.C. firm specializes in mediation and dispute resolution. In 1984, a judge appointed him to distribute money from a $180 million settlement for veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. His work on that project got notice from President George W. Bush's administration, which asked him to manage the 9/11 victims' compensation fund.

Since then, the calls have come regularly.

Most of his work is pro bono, including the Boston Marathon job. But Feinberg is being paid for the Penn State job and was paid by BP after the oil spill — a job that saw Feinberg absorb significant abuse. In his 2012 book, "Who Gets What," he said he became a "human pinata." Residents complained about the speed and distribution of the payouts, and insults flew at public meetings. "You are such a lying piece of (garbage)," one person told him.

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