Auto Tech

Volkswagen lawyers up with a high-profile compensation expert

Ken Feinberg has worked on cases involving 9/11 and the General Motors ignition-switch controversy, and now he's helping Volkswagen build out its own claims process.

While Feinberg's expertise might speed up compensation, there is still no official remedy for the half million or so vehicles that continue to over pollute.
Ralf Hirschberger/dpa/Corbis

When you know you're in a ton of trouble, oftentimes you'll reach out to somebody who's been in the position before. Volkswagen, facing a mountain of litigation stemming from its diesel-emissions debacle, is in a ton of trouble. Thus, the automaker reached out to Kenneth R. Feinberg, a well-known lawyer who's been through this rodeo before.

If his name sounds familiar, that's because his firm oversaw compensation for victims of General Motors' faulty ignition switches, as well as cases involving 9/11 and the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. With Volkswagen, Feinberg's job will be to create and manage a claims program for owners affected by the manufacturer's deceit. Suffice it to say, this is his specialty.

"[Feinberg's] extensive experience in handling such complex matters will help to guide us as we move forward to make things right with our customers," said Michael Horn, CEO of VW's US operations. Complex only begins to describe the legal morass in which Volkswagen resides -- the automaker is staring down more than 500 lawsuits stemming from its decision to intentionally deceive emissions testers.

Right now the brouhaha known affectionately as Dieselgate affects some 11 million Volkswagen diesel vehicles around the world. The affected vehicles emit more nitrogen oxides than is legally permissible, because VW used a software workaround to intentionally hold back emissions during official testing situations.