"Do not underestimate the emotion associated with financial uncertainty," Feinberg said, raising a finger to blunt any suggestion that economic losses are less traumatic than fatalities. "The future of your livelihood in the gulf — will there be shrimp five years from now, what will happen to the oyster beds, what about my mom-and-pop hotel where tourism's down? The common denominator in all of these tragedies is emotional anger, frustration, worry, disappointment."
One task less stressful for the man dubbed the "master of disasters" was his assignment two years ago to put curbs on the pay of Wall Street executives whose firms took taxpayer bailout money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, after the housing speculation bubble burst.
Congress demanded a quid pro quo of reductions in executive pay for the seven biggest bailed-out institutions, including AIG, Bank of America and CitiGroup. Feinberg was handed the hatchet, and he cut the compensation for 175 corporate elites.
"That was a program that Congress enacted that was pure populist revenge," he said. "There's no question that acceleration of repayment was driven by the knowledge that until they repay, the government would continue to determine their pay.... Bank of America even borrowed money to get the government out."