ByÂ SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, The New York Times
WASHINGTON â€”Â Kenneth R. Feinberg bristled when reporters dubbed him the compensation czar for hisÂ Treasury Department job monitoringÂ executive pay at companies that received government bailouts. The term, he lamented to ABC News last year, â€œmakes it sound like Iâ€™m going to issue some imperial decree.â€
Mr. Feinberg, named Wednesday byPresident Obama as the independent administrator of a $20 billion fund set up byÂ BP to compensate victims of theoil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, may not have the powers of a king. But he does seem to specialize in Solomon-like decisions.
Over the course of his long career as a mediator, he has helped settle a variety of thorny disputes, including a class-action suit by Vietnam veterans protesting the use of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, and a determination of theÂ fair market value of the Zapruder film of the assassination of PresidentÂ John F. Kennedy.
At the Treasury Department, he has repeatedly slashed the pay of Wall Street and auto company executives, confronting outraged citizens and bankers alike.
â€œHe has an enormously thick skin,â€ said his law partner, Michael Rozen.
Mr. Feinberg, 64, is perhaps best known as special master of the federalÂ September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which distributed nearly $7 billion to more than 5,000 survivors and families of victims. He presided personally over hundreds of hearings, a role that required him to grapple with the deepest sort of human pain and make agonizing decisions about the value of each life lost, a task he recounted in a 2005 memoir, â€œWhat Is a Life Worth?â€
So when the Obama White House proposed requiring BP to set up the escrow fund, Mr. Feinberg seemed the obvious choice to run it.
â€œBefore I knew they were picking him, I had mentioned him to people as the right guy to do this,â€ said SenatorCharles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. â€œItâ€™s a natural fit, after the job he did on 9/11.â€
To read more, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/17/us/17feinberg.html?src=mv
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