In yesterday’s New York Times, John Schwartz’s article, “More Delicate Diplomacy for the Overseer of the Compensation Fund,” described Kenneth Feinberg’s swing through Louisiana. Feinberg is handling the BP compensation fund, in much the same way as he has done before, following the 9/11 attacks and various mass tort situations.
As the article notes, even with $20 billion in funds, Feinberg is facing skepticism and reluctance to participate. I’m not sure if it is discouraging or reassuring that he is confronted with a common problem for mediators: how to get parties to the mediation table. Thus, he was “playing the role of salesman and politician.” We more ordinary mediators can often struggle to persuade parties to give mediation a try. Let’s hope that Feinberg’s latest high-stakes, high visibility mediation process helps to further illuminate why it can be in the parties’ own best interest to mediate.