Volkswagen Taps Kenneth Feinberg for Emissions-Crisis Claims Program – Wall Street Journal
tapped outside lawyer Kenneth Feinberg to run a program addressing claims linked to the German auto giant’s emissions crisis, enlisting a victims-compensation expert to deal with the owners of tainted diesel-powered vehicles.
Mr. Feinberg, who most recently finished work on a compensation fund for victims of a defective ignition switch on millions of older General Motors Co.
cars, said in a statement he would immediately start crafting a program on Volkswagen’s behalf.
He said he hoped to have a program in place soon after getting input from vehicle owners, their lawyers and others. Mr. Feinberg is also known for administering a compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and BP
PLC’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Michael Horn, Volkswagen’s top U.S. executive, said Mr. Feinberg’s experience would “help to guide us as we move forward to make things right with our customers.”
Mr. Feinberg will craft a program for the owners of nearly 500,000 cars with two-liter diesel engines and another roughly 85,000 vehicles with three-liter diesel engines that regulators in the U.S. found contained illegal software able to dupe government emissions tests. The affected brands include Volkswagen, Audi
Volkswagen and Audi officials were scheduled to meet with U.S. environmental regulators on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, this week to discuss possible fixes for the vehicles, said a person familiar with the matter. Regulators are expected to address proposed fixes for the two-liter diesel engines by Tuesday.
Camille Biros, a lawyer at Mr. Feinberg’s firm who will also work on the program, said it “will take a while to get it up and running.” She declined to provide a specific time frame for unveiling the program.
She said the firm would work on developing a protocol over the next several weeks after consulting with car owners, lawyers and regulators. The program is now the firm’s top priority, she said.
The hiring of Mr. Feinberg comes as Volkswagen faces widespread lawsuits linked to the emissions crisis now consolidated in a federal court in San Francisco. A judge in that case had asked lawyers to suggest names for a “special settlement master” and some put forth Mr. Feinberg.
The Volkswagen program Mr. Feinberg will run is separate from that litigation, but could affect it. With the GM compensation program, victims accepting cash offers had to waive rights to later sue the auto maker on account of their claims. Ms. Biros declined to discuss possible terms of the Volkswagen compensation program. “We are just beginning our work,” she said.
Volkswagen faces criminal and regulatory probes in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere related to emissions cheating. The company has said it is cooperating with the probes.
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