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Kenneth R. Feinberg

June 17, 2010

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Background: Born Oct. 23, 1945, in Brockton. After graduating from Brockton High School, he earned a degree in history from the University of Massachusetts, where he became involved in theater, and a law degree at New York University. He is married with three adult children, and he enjoys opera (he is president of Washington National Opera), theater, and cigars. He has retained his ties to Brockton, which honored him with a “Ken Feinberg Appreciation Day’’ in 1995 and to which he has bequeathed his extensive music and opera collection.

Early career: He was a clerk for a New York State Court of Appeals judge and an assistant attorney for the New York Department of Justice before joining the staff of Senator Edward M. Kennedy as an assistant in 1975, eventually becoming Kennedy’s chief of staff. After leaving the office in 1980, Feinberg has remained a confidant to the Kennedy family, serving as chairman of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and representing the family’s interests in the FBI’s recent release of its files on the late senator.

Accomplishments: As a mediator, Feinberg has been at the center of many of the nation’s biggest damages suits, helping to break a stalemate on the Agent Orange case to reach a $180 million settlement for affected Vietnam veterans and reaching a $2.5 billion settlement for women suing over the Dalkon Shield, a defective birth control device. He was also one of three arbitrators who determined the fair market value of the Zapruder film, which captured the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He was selected by John Ashcroft, then attorney general, to head the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, evaluating claims and determining appropriate compensation for victims in lieu of lawsuits. Working pro bono for 33 months, he determined the distribution of nearly $7 billion to about 5,000 victims and families of victims. He more recently led compensation efforts for victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting. For President Obama, he served as “pay czar,’’ overseeing the compensation for executives from companies that received the largest chunks of federal bailout money.