Kenneth Feinberg, an attorney internationally recognized for working out payments to victims of the BP Gulf oil spill, General Motors ignition switch scandal, the 9/11 victims’ compensation fund and other high-profile cases, has been hired by Volkswagen to work in a similar capacity to resolve thousands of lawsuits involving its emissions scandal.
The German automaker has said that Feinberg, 70, will design and administer an independent claims programs for owners of the affected diesel cars that have software designed to hoodwink the U.S. emissions testing system. About a half-million diesel cars in America are affected and several federal agencies are investigating the conduct of VW’s executives over the past several years.
The move by VW to hire Feinberg has been considered by some to be a public relations idea as well as an alternative dispute resolution process meant to clear up many of the thousands of lawsuits filed by car owners against the company. Affected car owners are still allowed to pursue individual claims or class claims, should they choose, depending upon how they were impacted by the scam.
Feinberg is quoted as saying that his plan may include compensation for loss of gas mileage and buybacks. He also noted that if recall repairs were made, those car owners may mean giving up one’s right to sue VW in order to obtain cash payments.
Experts have said that the repairs may not be a simple software change. They may include a hardware change that involves the exhaust system and a possible chemical treatment system that could affect the car’s performance or gas mileage.