Ken Feinberg on the Value of a Life

Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg View columnist. He founded Ritholtz Wealth Management and was chief executive and director of equity research at FusionIQ, a quantitative research firm. He blogs at the Big Picture and is the author of “Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy.”
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This week in our Masters in Business interview, we speak with attorney and mass tort mediator Ken Feinberg, perhaps best known as the special master for the Sept. 11th Victims Compensation Fund. Feinberg also oversaw the funds set up following events such as the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the General Motors ignition switch malfunctions, among others.

Feinberg looked at the 9/11 fund as an “act of patriotism;” he and his staff worked pro bono for the full 33 months that the fund was in force. He described the “debilitating personal toll” listening to the agonizing stories of loss and grief told by survivors, and what he did to cope with this tragedy. The surprisingly positive conclusion was that helping people achieve some closure, and moving on with their lives, was the best possible outcome to a horrific tragedy. He is the author of such books as "What Is Life Worth?: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Fund and Its Effort to Compensate the Victims of September 11th" and "Who Gets What: Fair Compensation after Tragedy and Financial Upheaval."

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