The lawyer tasked with managing payments to the families of victims killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will oversee a massive fund set aside to pay claims to people who lost income in the devastating Gulf Coast oil spill.
Senior administration officials announced today that BP will set aside $20 billion to pay the victims of the massive oil spill -- a move made under pressure by the White House as the company copes with causing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who ensured 9/11 families were monetarily compensated for their losses, will lead the independent fund. In his current role, Feinberg is known as Obama's "pay czar," setting salary limits for companies getting the most aid from a $700 billion government bailout fund.
An NYU grad and Columbia law school adjunct professor, the Massachusetts-born Feinberg made a name for himself as special master of the Sept. 11th Compensation Fund. Appointed to the post by former Attorney General John Ashcroft, he spent nearly three years working pro bono to streamline the process, determine the appropriate payments and dole out awards to families.
Among the more controversial responsibilities he faced in that role was deciding how much each family should get -- a number calculated on the basis of a mathematical equation that often fell short of the intangible losses victims' families suffered on that fateful day.
"It's a brutal, sort of cold, thing to do. Anybody who looks at this program and expects that by cutting a U.S. Treasury check, you are going to make 9/11 families happy, is vastly misunderstanding what's going on with this program," the 64-year-old Feinberg said at the time. "There is not one family member I've met who wouldn't gladly give back the check, or, in many cases, their own lives to have that loved one back. 'Happy' never enters into this equation."
Obama was to announce the deal in a Rose Garden statement later Wednesday after wrapping up a meeting with BP executives at the White House.
The still-unfolding disaster in the Gulf, as tens of thousands of gallons of oil continue to pour from the broken well daily, is jeopardizing the environment and ecosystems along with the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people across the coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Those affected ranged from fishermen to restaurateurs to oil rig workers idled by Obama's temporary halt to new deep-sea oil drilling.
BP spokesman Toby Odone declined to comment on the fund.