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VW Fix Should Be Less Emotional Than His Previous Cases, Feinberg Says


Let's get an update on Volkswagen now, which is facing hundreds of lawsuits over its cheating on emissions standards. The Environmental Protection Agency is a suing, so are the company's investors.


And, of course, there are the car owners themselves, people who bought the tainted diesel vehicles, some of whom are now driving around in cars that violate environmental laws.

MONTAGNE: VW presented a plan to recall those vehicles, but California regulators rejected that plan last week. When VW does manage to come up with a plan agreeable to the government, the man who will push it through is Kenneth Feinberg. He oversaw the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and BP's settlement over its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Here's how Feinberg described the challenge faced by VW.

KENNETH FEINBERG: Volkswagen will have to come up with a remedy for those automobiles currently being driven that are in violation of certain emissions standards required by EPA and the California regulators. And whatever that remedy might be, whether it's fix the automobile, buy back the automobile, trade in the automobile, provide compensation to the owner, any - some - different options, that's what has to be finalized.

MONTAGNE: Is Volkswagen dragging its feet?

FEINBERG: I don't think - I don't know. I don't know if Volkswagen is dragging its feet. I can only say that technologically there's a complicated issue as to the extent to which many of these half a million automobiles here in the United States can actually be fixed. And that is what I think Volkswagen is now trying to determine much to the frustration of the regulators.

MONTAGNE: You know, this was such a startling story when it first emerged, partly because of the apparent planning that was involved in, you know, in making this fraud. How does this fit in to the sort of larger picture of recalls? I mean, it seems much - somehow more complicated.

FEINBERG: In one sense, it is more complicated. In another sense, I must say, it is less complicated. We do not have, unlike GM or 9/11 or even the BP oil rig explosion, we do not have a situation here involving death. This is an automobile fix, and in that sense, I hope it will be somewhat less emotional than it would be if you're visiting with a family that lost a 19-year-old driver or a family that lost a youngster who was killed in an automobile accident or in 9/11 or anything like that.

MONTAGNE: In big cases like this, what are the biggest sticking points that emerge?

FEINBERG: Human nature, emotion - the dollars and cents aspect of this, the claims processing aspect is not rocket science. The real difficulty in all of these cases is the emotion in dealing with somebody who feels they're victimized, whether its property or injury or even death of a relative. And that's what you have to try and get around by offering a program that will encourage people notwithstanding their unhappiness to come into a program like this.

MONTAGNE: And to feel that they've been compensated.

FEINBERG: That is correct. That is correct. This is appropriate compensation for my wrong, and in that sense, it's voluntary and you just have to try and make the program as generous as you can to encourage people to feel that way.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Feinberg is the administrator of the anticipated VW claims program. Thank you for joining us.

FEINBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.