Ten days ago, Joe Nocera wrote an article for the New York Times Business section titled “Justice, Without The System.” In it, he described an interview he had with Kenneth R. Feinberg about Feinberg’s work related to the BP oil spill in the Gulf and claims made against the company for damages. Over and over again, news reports and commentaries have referred to Feinberg as a “mediator.” I have taken issue with that description before: whatever his role is, it is not a mediator as we normally understand the mediation process. This time around, he is described as “the former pay czar” and the administrator of the 9/11 fund and, currently, of BP’s $2o million compensation fund but not as a “mediator” . It might have no significance at all, but I would like to think that a better understanding of mediation is developing. Once more: it’s a process in which a neutral third party helps parties in conflict to reach resolution that fits their situation. Feinberg’s work, whatever you think of it, isn’t mediating the dispute between BP and each claimant. It’s administrating.
Posted in Conflict Resolution in the News, Tuesday, November 30th, 2010