Who Gets What

Who Gets What

Fair Compensation After Tragedy and Financial Upheaval

By Kenneth R. Feinberg

PublicAffairs, Hardcover, 9781586489779, 216pp.

Publication Date: June 2012


Agent Orange, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, the Virginia Tech massacre, the 2008 financial crisis, and the Deep Horizon gulf oil spill: each was a disaster in its own right. What they had in common was their aftermath—each required compensation for lives lost, bodies maimed, livelihoods wrecked, economies and ecosystems upended. In each instance, an objective third party had to step up and dole out allocated funds: in each instance, Presidents, Attorneys General, and other public officials have asked Kenneth R. Feinberg to get the job done.

In Who Gets What?, Feinberg reveals the deep thought that must go into each decision, not to mention the most important question that arises after a tragedy: why compensate at all? The result is a remarkably accessible discussion of the practical and philosophical problems of using money as a way to address wrongs and reflect individual worth.



About the Author
Kenneth E. Bingham was born at the Brockton Hospital, Brockton Mass. in 1947, the seventh child of Elizabeth (Prentiss) and Clyde Bingham. He grew up in the single-parent (mother) home at 40 Glenwood Square (House torn down in the 1980s) near the Howard and Foster Shoe Co. He attended Brockton public schools, was an active member of the Y.M.C.A, and St. Paul's Episcopal Church. As for his own Brockton history, Ken has memories of great family, friends and neighbors; learning a good work-ethic; swimming and ice skating at D.W. Field Park; a cold house; the Brockton parade to welcome home Rocky Marciano after the fight with Jersey Joe Walcott; he and his sister Bonnie being quarantined fearing they had polio; ice and coal deliveries to his house; two hurricanes blowing down the trees around their house; Davy Crockett; the Brockton Fair; snow forts and tunnels that rivalled WW I fortifications at the Somme; learning the world famous 1.5 summersault off the Y diving board; Pin-Setting at various bowling alleys; shoveling snow for neighbors-including radio station WBET's Dorothy Dale; delivering the Brockton Enterprise Newspaper; working part-time for the Brockton Public Market on Main St. (.85/hr.), and Coats Fields Dept. Store, also on Main St.; Hula Hoops and "Alley Oop"; drive-Ins with speakers on the car window; testing TV vacuum tubes at the drug store; again-a cold house. Ken is a combat veteran, having served with the Seabees with 3 tours to Vietnam. After service with the Seabees he received his B.S. degree from Calif. Poly Technic University under the G.I. Bill. He is a member of the I.B.E.W. and worked on many commercial and industrial projects in California. He has also worked overseas in many parts of the world as a project electrical engineer. His last job before retiring was in Iraq, in 2007, working for the Washington Group (Formerly the Morrison & Knudsen Co.). He was part of a team that facilitated electrification of Iraqi villages and city areas. Ken resides in Ventura California with his wife, Patricia. They have one child, Joe, an electrical engineer. Along with sailing, Bingham's passion lately is designing/publishing books to help nonprofits promote their organization through their own rich history. To date, Ken-an amateur historian-has published over fifty titles with all proceeds going to nonprofit organizations.

Praise For Who Gets What

Kirkus Reviews
“An insider's account of how compensation decisions are made after major disasters…An opportunity to get to know a man whose work has affected thousands.” 

Newsweek Daily Beast“When bad things happen and damages are due, it has frequently fallen on Washington lawyer Kenneth Feinberg to decide how much cash goes to whom—thus his unlikely career as America’s King Solomon.” Washington Post“A clearly written and emotionally contained new book”

Washington Post

“In Who Gets What,” lawyer and master of disaster Kenneth R. Feinberg dissects the complicated business of settling claims after calamity… A glance at recent headlines may indicate a long shelf life for Feinberg’s book — who will compensate the victims of Jerry Sandusky? “Who Gets What” indeed."

Reed Richardson, Eric Alterman's blog on The Nation

“An interesting prism through which to view what kind of lives and livelihoods our democracy sees fit to value… This peek into a world 99 percent of us will never experience is perhaps the most powerful lesson of Feinberg's book. It reveals how our society's values have been radically skewed to greatly reward those who take excessive risks in creating impenetrable 'vehicles' that have almost no intrinsic societal value.”

Eric Posner, New Republic on line

“A helpful reminder that many institutions that we take for granted flourish only because the public does not pay attention to them. When political ruptures expose this machinery, savvy figures such as Kenneth Feinberg are called upon to play a paradoxical role. They convince the public that these institutions are fair by temporarily suspending their operation and using ad hoc procedures that better comport with public notions of fairness, until public attention wanders elsewhere.

New York Times Sunday Business
“Thoughtful… Mr. Feinberg is compassionate, tough, legally creative, highly persuasive and politically shrewd. He has an endless appetite for work, an admirable taste for public service and a zest for butting heads in high-stakes negotiations. He understands that he takes the heat for the public officials who call him in. He expects no one to be happy with how he slices the pie, at least not at first, and no one to be in a reasonable mood.”

Thomson Reuters“[Who Gets What] offers a narrative of Feinberg ‘bending the law’ -- as he describes it -- as he wrestles with the answers. In nearly every case Feinberg tackled, he was asked to refashion traditional legal conventions to serve a broader societal cause.”

JAMS (Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services)
“The book provides a terrific narrative of some of America’s hardest-to-solve problems and an even deeper insight into the mind of the man who brought resolution to each of them. We highly recommend it.”

Wednesday, Jun 27, 2012

When a tragedy like Sept. 11 strikes, shock quickly gives way to blame. And when it's time to figure out if victims should be compensated, Kenneth Feinberg's phone rings. The attorney has built a career out of overseeing compensation funds and determining who deserves payment. More at NPR.org

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