Making Sense

Master Arbitrator Ken Feinberg Takes on GM's Alternative Dispute Resolution Efforts

August 13, 2014 Photo

Ken Feinberg is a name most of us in the claims world should know. He’s perhaps the most famous arbitrator in the country, having managed the victim compensation funds for 9/11, the Virginia Tech shootings, the BP Oil Spill, and the Boston Marathon bombings, to name but a few.

Most recently, he’s taken on GM’s alternative dispute resolution (ADR) efforts related to its faulty ignition switches, for which 8.5 million cars were recalled after causing 13 deaths and dozens of accidents. In an interview with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson on July 1, Feinberg spoke frankly about the familiar task ahead of him, and a few statements really caught my attention:

On making payments quickly: “The idea of delaying distributions…while people are waiting who need the money, I think is a mistake. It’s more important to get the money out, I think, than take the time—and expense, I might add—of micromanaging the facts of every claim.”

On what he’s learned since managing his first victims’ fund: “Put aside your law degree; it doesn’t help. Learn every time how to empathize with people and be sincere. Above all, learn to become a good listener…because there is very little you can say to people like this that is going to be meaningful.”

It’s a fascinating listen—even if just for insights into ADR—and one I’d encourage everyone to download at Because if anyone knows a few secrets for successfully sorting out disasters, it’s Feinberg.

About The Authors
Eric Gilkey

Eric Gilkey is vice president of content at the CLM, and serves as executive editor of CLM magazine, the flagship publication of the CLM.

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