What's A Life Worth - Kenneth Feinberg Talks 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund

Updated: May 3

The inspiration for the Netflix film 'Worth,' starring Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, and Amy Ryan: the true story of the man put in charge of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, and a testament to the enduring power of family, grief, love, fear, frustration, and courage.

Thrilled to share Kenneth Feinberg, is a special guest for our upcoming season on In The Spirit Of Things Conversations. Kenneth (Ken) is the inspiration of the Netflix Film, 'Worth' and the man who was put in charge of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. He was known as the Special Master.

Just days after September 11, 2001, Kenneth Feinberg was appointed to administer the federal 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, a unique, unprecedented fund established by Congress to compensate families who lost a loved one on 9/11 and survivors who were physically injured in the attacks.

Those who participated in the Fund were required to waive their right to sue the airlines involved in the attacks, as well as other potentially responsible entities. When the program was launched, many families criticized it as a brazen, tight-fisted attempt to protect the airlines from lawsuits. The Fund was also attacked as attempting to put insulting dollar values on the lives of lost loved ones.

The families were in pain. And they were angry. Over the course of the next three years, Feinberg spent almost all of his time meeting with the families, convincing them of the generosity and compassion of the program, and calculating appropriate awards for each and every claim.

The Fund proved to be a dramatic success with over 97% of eligible families participating. It also provided important lessons for Feinberg, who became the filter, the arbitrator, and the target of family suffering. Feinberg learned about the enduring power of family grief, love, fear, faith, frustration, and courage. Most importantly, he learned that no check, no matter how large, could make the families and victims of 9/11 whole again.

Even after finishing the disbursements for the 9/11 attacks, Feinberg was not finished.

Feinberg’s firm became the go-to law firm to administer compensatory funds following other tragedies. The mass shootings at Virginia Tech University, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. The 2010 BP oil spill. Victims of clergy sexual abuse.



Kenneth R. Feinberg is one of America's leading experts in mediation, alternative dispute resolution and the design and administration of claims compensation programs. He has administered numerous high-profile compensation programs for the Department of Justice and others, having served, most importantly, as the Department of Justice’s designated Special Master of the Federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001. In this capacity,

Mr. Feinberg developed and promulgated the Regulations governing the Fund’s administration and oversaw the evaluation of applications, determinations of appropriate compensation, and dissemination of awards totalling over $7 billion in public taxpayer money.

Mr. Feinberg has also served as Special Master – again appointed by the Department of Justice – in such highly public matters as the U.S. Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism Fund (currently being administered by the Department of Justice) and as Administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility to compensate victims of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Secretary of the Treasury appointed Mr. Feinberg in 2009 to serve as Special Master of the Troubled Asset Relief (“TARP”) Executive Compensation Program in order to determine the compensation structures of certain employees of Corporate TARP recipients who had received exceptional financial assistance. In 2015, Mr. Feinberg was again appointed as Special Master by the Secretary of the Treasury to oversee the Department of the Treasury’s review of applications proposing to reduce pension benefits in connection with the Kline-Miller Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014.

Since 2016, and up to the present, Mr. Feinberg has acted as an independent Fund Administrator for various Catholic Church sexual abuse claims compensation programs established by Catholic Dioceses in five states.

In addition, at the request of The Boeing Company in 2019, Mr. Feinberg helped design and independently administer two related funds – the Boeing Financial Assistance Fund, which allocated $50 mil to the families who lost loved ones in the two plane accidents, and the Boeing Community Investment Fund, which allocated $50 mil to family recommended charitable programs, projects and organizations.

During 2014 – 2015, he served as the Administrator of the GM Ignition Compensation Claims Resolution Facility. He is currently serving as the bankruptcy Court Appointed Mediator in the opioid Purdue Bankruptcy with a Court mandate to resolve financial creditor claim allocation disputes involving various public and private creditors and the debtor.

Mr. Feinberg has also served in a pro bono capacity as Administrator of the One Orlando Fund, designing and implementing a claims program for the distribution of $30 million in corporate and private donations to the terrorism victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando in June 2016. Mr. Feinberg has also served in a pro bono capacity as Fund Administrator for the One Fund Boston Victim Relief Fund arising out of the Boston Marathon bombings, Advisor for the Newtown-Sandy Hook Victim Compensation Fund, Administrator of the Aurora Victim Relief Fund following the Colorado movie theater shootings in 2012, and Administrator of the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund following the shootings at Virginia Tech University in 2007.

Mr. Feinberg was appointed by the Federal Court in June of 2007 as the Distribution Agent of In Re: United States Securities and Exchange Commission v. American International Group, Inc., responsible for the design and implementation of a Plan for the distribution of an $800 million Fund to individual eligible claimants. He has also served as Court Appointed Fund Administrator in other prominent settlements including: In Re: United States of America v. Computer Associates International, Inc. (responsible for the design and implementation of a restitution fund of $275 million); In Re: International Air Transportation Surcharge Antitrust Litigation (responsible for the design and administration of a $200 million fund in both the United States and England); In Re: Zyprexa Product Liability Litigation (a $700 million settlement fund); and In Re: Latino Officers Association City of New York v The City of New York (a $17 million settlement fund).

Mr. Feinberg received his B.A. cum laude from the University of Massachusetts in 1967 and his J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1970, where he was Articles Editor of the Law Review. He was a Law Clerk for Chief Judge Stanley H. Fuld, New York State Court of Appeals from 1970 to 1972; Assistant United States Attorney, Southern District of New York from 1972 to 1975; Special Counsel, United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary from 1975 to 1978; Chief of Staff to Senator Edward M. Kennedy from 1978 to 1980; Partner at Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler from 1980 to 1993; and founded The Law Offices of Kenneth R. Feinberg, PC.

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