Who Gets What: Fair Compensation after Tragedy and Financial Upheaval

Overview

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...

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Who Gets What: Fair Compensation after Tragedy and Financial Upheaval

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Feinberg (What Is Life Worth?) is quick to point out that his illustrious career as a lawyer "has been defined by disasters and tragedies." Since his work on the Agent Orange settlement for Vietnam vets (which Feinberg declares "the poster child of 'judicial activism'"), the author has been at the forefront of many significant compensation cases, including the deliberations regarding some of this country's most horrific disasters in recent memory-from the 9/11 attacks, to the Virginia Tech shootings and BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Feinberg has spent his career asking the grim titular question on behalf of those who have lost loved ones or livelihoods, and in the process, he's been involved in provocative intellectual and judicial disputes. For legal scholars, there's a lot here that is by turns fascinating and unsettling: discussions about tort calculations and potential lifetime earnings, philosophical examinations of the value of human life, and investigations into the dark side of corporate cases and the questionable motives of independent compensation consultants. The answers to Feinberg's overarching question are rarely simple, except when it comes to who gets the credit for the reparations; in that case, it's Feinberg. If readers can look past the enormous ego that permeates the text, they'll find an intriguing account of a seldom considered side of tragedy. (June
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher

Kirkus Reviews
“An insider's account of how compensation decisions are made after major disasters…An opportunity to get to know a man whose work has affected thousands.” 

Newsweek Daily Beast“When bad things happen and damages are due, it has frequently fallen on Washington lawyer Kenneth Feinberg to decide how much cash goes to whom—thus his unlikely career as America’s King Solomon.” Washington Post“A clearly written and emotionally contained new book”

Washington Post

“In Who Gets What,” lawyer and master of disaster Kenneth R. Feinberg dissects the complicated business of settling claims after calamity… A glance at recent headlines may indicate a long shelf life for Feinberg’s book — who will compensate the victims of Jerry Sandusky? “Who Gets What” indeed."

Reed Richardson, Eric Alterman's blog on The Nation

“An interesting prism through which to view what kind of lives and livelihoods our democracy sees fit to value… This peek into a world 99 percent of us will never experience is perhaps the most powerful lesson of Feinberg's book. It reveals how our society's values have been radically skewed to greatly reward those who take excessive risks in creating impenetrable 'vehicles' that have almost no intrinsic societal value.”

Eric Posner, New Republic on line

“A helpful reminder that many institutions that we take for granted flourish only because the public does not pay attention to them. When political ruptures expose this machinery, savvy figures such as Kenneth Feinberg are called upon to play a paradoxical role. They convince the public that these institutions are fair by temporarily suspending their operation and using ad hoc procedures that better comport with public notions of fairness, until public attention wanders elsewhere.

New York Times Sunday Business
“Thoughtful… Mr. Feinberg is compassionate, tough, legally creative, highly persuasive and politically shrewd. He has an endless appetite for work, an admirable taste for public service and a zest for butting heads in high-stakes negotiations. He understands that he takes the heat for the public officials who call him in. He expects no one to be happy with how he slices the pie, at least not at first, and no one to be in a reasonable mood.”

Thomson Reuters“[Who Gets What] offers a narrative of Feinberg ‘bending the law’ -- as he describes it -- as he wrestles with the answers. In nearly every case Feinberg tackled, he was asked to refashion traditional legal conventions to serve a broader societal cause.”

JAMS (Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services)
“The book provides a terrific narrative of some of America’s hardest-to-solve problems and an even deeper insight into the mind of the man who brought resolution to each of them. We highly recommend it.”

Kirkus Reviews
An insider's account of how compensation decisions are made after major disasters. 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. An opportunity to get to know a man whose work has affected thousands.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586489779
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 6/26/2012
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 777,364
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


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.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction xiii

1 The Professor, the Judge, the Lawyer, and the Senator 1

2 Agent Orange 23

3 The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund 41

4 The Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund 63

5 Paying Wall Street Executives 85

6 Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico 125

Epilogue 185

Appendix 201

Index 205

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