Interviews

How will funds be distributed for Boston bombing victims?

The One Fund administrator speaks out

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," April 26, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Again, a big fund set up to help folks hit by calamity. And who do you think they called to oversee it? The same guy who scrupulously parceled out cash to the 9/11 victims and then the BP oil spill victims, then the Aurora Colorado theater shooting victims, and now the Boston bombing victims.

In all, more than $20 million has been raised to help those injured or family members of those killed in last week's tragic attacks.

To Ken Feinberg, who has the unenviable job of making sure those who need the money get the money and they get the money fast, but using what strikes some as confusing math to answer the question he himself raises in his bestselling book, "What Is Life Worth?"

I'm very happy to have this gentleman on with me.

Ken Feinberg, very good to have you.

KENNETH FEINBERG, ADMINISTRATOR, THE ONE FUND: Thank you.

CAVUTO: First of all, as someone who was parceling out the funds after 9/11, what do you make of that story about finding landing gear of a plane that hit the buildings?

FEINBERG: Neil, nothing surprises me anymore about 9/11, that horrible day, the aftermath years later. It just defies belief.

CAVUTO: It is amazing. And it makes you wonder how much more we will discover.

But I -- you know, I know there are different cases with each of the compensation funds that you have handled, some publicly administered on the federal level, federal taxes and the rest, some privately administered, as I believe is the case with The One Fund post the Boston attacks.

What is your criteria? I guess I know it depends on the crisis, but in this case, let's go right to this case, how do you decide who gets what?

FEINBERG: Like Aurora, like Virginia Tech, how much money, first of all, is there is to distribute?

In Aurora, we had $5 million. We couldn't pay any mental trauma cases. There wasn't enough money. In Virginia Tech, we had $7 million. We were able to pay physical injuries, deaths, mental trauma in the classroom, any of the students who were in the classroom and witnessed the murders and the carnage.

Here, we will have about -- so far, we have got $25 million for loved ones lost, six double amputees, another six or seven single limbs lost, hospitalizations; 30, 40 people will be in the hospital for weeks and weeks. I mean, we will decide based on the total amount of money how we can spread it to eligible claimants and get that money out by the end of June.

CAVUTO: I would imagine, Ken, that especially those who lost limbs or both legs in the case of the -- remember the one gentleman who had actually fingered one of the suspects as a culprit. He has to have his whole house retrofitted. His whole life changes. His whole future changes. But besides that, I mean, you -- the way even his home is set up, the way he goes about living completely changes. Right?

FEINBERG: Of course.

But, you know, what you try to explain to people, who are very emotional, angry, frustrated, disappointed, uncertain about the future, innocent victims -- why me? Why me, Mr. Feinberg? You try and explain that there isn't going to be enough money to provide everybody with the type of long- term financial stability that they seek. It just can't happen.

The best you can do is provide them some -- some funds that will provide some sort of emergency relief or recognition on the part of the American people that we all want to help them.

CAVUTO: There are going to be a lot of mental distress cases on the basis of this, what happened in Boston. Will they ever get compensation?

FEINBERG: We will see. We will see. Well, I'm going to hold two days -- as you know, Neil, you have covered these before -- I will hold two days of town hall meetings in Boston on Monday the 6th and Tuesday the 7 of May. Let everybody come to these hearings, what do you think? What should be do with the money? Who should get what? What is life worth? What is a physical injury worth? How long you were in the hospital? What about mental trauma? What about outpatient treatment? What about businesses on Boylston Avenue that have been shut down, were shut down for a week and lost wages and lost income?

I mean, there's only so much money. Now, it's a tribute to the mayor of Boston, I must say, and the governor, Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick. They set this fund up 24 hours after the bombings.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Yes, and about two hours later they called you. I can see why. You do have a -- tried to be as fine about this as you can be in these circumstances. But you can't give money to everybody, like you said.

And where there's money, besides those who desperately need and deserve it, there are lot of folks that come in and try to nab it, right, when they're not deserving.

FEINBERG: Well...

CAVUTO: In the BP oil spill, I know you had to do that.

So, how do you distinguish between claims that are real vs. claims that are bogus?

FEINBERG: What's the proof?

Were you hospitalized after the bombings? Attached to your claim form a piece of paper, signed, sealed and delivered that you were in the hospital for four days, six days. Here's the hospital record.

CAVUTO: Well, what if you're a business, Ken?

FEINBERG: Well, that's another thing. That's right.

CAVUTO: How did you distinguish a miniature golf course that was 30 miles away in the Gulf that might or might not have been affected or had its business affected?

FEINBERG: You're absolutely right, Neil, about that.

In BP, it was a huge problem. In BP, you recall, I was on, we received

1,200,000 claims after the BP oil spill from 50 states and 35 foreign countries.

CAVUTO: Wow.

FEINBERG: And we received just about every imaginative, creative claim from businesses that you could think up.

CAVUTO: Oh, I bet.

FEINBERG: And it took some doing.

CAVUTO: But you did it.

You know, in the case of the 9/11 victims compensation fund, obviously billions and billions of dollars, that, you forever etched yourself in the American lexicon on the left and the right each griping about you, which to me said volumes about you, that both sides were getting angry at you.

But you attached not a formula, but said the death of a firemen vs. the death of a top Wall Street has nothing to do with how you view either, but the earnings potential that was robbed from the death of both, and that the broker, presumably, or his relatives, his loved ones, would get more than would the fireman.

That got you in a lot of heat because it was not even-Stevens across the board.

FEINBERG: That's because, you will recall, in the 9/11 fund, anybody who took public taxpayer money had to waive their right to go to court...

CAVUTO: That's right. That's right.

FEINBERG: ... against the airlines or the World Trade Center. So you had to pay the stockbroker more than the fireman or the busboy.

This is not -- Boston is quite different. Boston, like Aurora and like Virginia Tech, is a gift. It's found money. It's not money that requires any release of lawsuits or any precondition or restriction. So, it's likely that all lives are equal. They were in Aurora and Virginia Tech in terms of death.

CAVUTO: All right, but what if -- and I'm speaking crassly here as a business guy, so if you will forgive me for how this sounds -- I don't mean it to sound bad -- if some of the victims of the case of Boston some were richer than others, do you still say to those four victims, including the MIT policeman who was gunned down days later, you and your loved ones are going to get an equal amount, or do you distinguish how they were compensated and what their families now lose as a result?

FEINBERG: I must say, I'm not Solomon. I'm inclined to give everybody, the families of all who lost loved ones, lives are equal, lives are equal.

I'm not prepared to say the one family, you get $500,000 less than another family. I mean, you can take this money and do what you want with it.

You're not releasing any rights to go to court. I'm in no position to weigh the value of lives, I must say.

CAVUTO: Yes, real quickly, I'm sorry, if it looks like there was government incompetence here, Ken, and that the agencies either weren't talking to each other or someone successfully sues on behalf of victims that the government owes them or sets up a compensation fund -- I can't even envision that -- but that would be different, right? Then you're talking taxpayer dollars and -- right?

FEINBERG: Very different. That's very different -- 9/11 and BP, if you took the money, you accepted it, you waived your right to litigate against any domestic, anybody.

In Aurora, Virginia Tech, Newtown, Boston, these funds are privately donated. They are a gift. It gets passed through to you too. Do what you want with it, if you're eligible and you receive a check. And what you do with that money, including hire a lawyer, is entirely up to you.

CAVUTO: Ken Feinberg, thank you very, very much.

He has handled more than his share of crises, more than his dispensation of funds. But he is the first person they call when everything hits the fan, because he is scrupulous and fair, makes sure that everyone is treated equally. And he is praised on all sides for that thoroughness.

Ken Feinberg, very good having you. Thank you.

FEINBERG: Thanks again, Neil.

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