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Why General Motors is Trusting Ken Feinberg to Settle Defect Damages

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- General Motors hires attorney Ken Feinberg to advise them on how to settle damages from its high-profile ignition-switch defect case.


In the midst of dealing with an ignition-switch defect that's been linked to at least 13 deaths -- and a recall of 2.6 million vehicles, General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra told lawmakers that the company is considering paying damages to victims and their families.  And now, GM is turning to attorney Ken Feinberg for help with just that.

So who is the man GM is paying to advise the company on how to settle damages from this high-profile case?

Often referred to as a "master of disaster," Feinberg is known for handling large-scale victim compensation cases.  He's overseen millions of dollars in compensation in high-profile tragedies -- including the September 11th terrorist attacks.

He was appointed by Attorney General John Ashcroft to be Special Master of that fund, making him responsible for deciding how much each family of a victim would receive.  He worked for the fund for 33 months pro bono and in total, awarded $7 billion to 97% of victims' families, with the average payout being $1.8 million.

Feinberg also handled compensation for the Virginia Tech school shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing and the BP (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. 

In the summer of 2010, Feinberg was put in charge of the $20 billion Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust, established as the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, that was intended to pay for damages to natural resources, state and local response costs and individual compensation.

After receiving numerous complaints about the claims process under Feinberg, the settlement of claims through the facility was eventually replaced by the court supervised settlement program in June 2012.  It was reported that Feinberg and his law firm were paid up to $1.25 million a month from BP.

No word yet on how much Feinberg's high-priced services will cost GM to settle damages over the failure to fix what was a 57-cent part.

Written by Brittany Umar in New York.

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