An independent agency within the Department of Justice, FCSC has been settling claims U.S. Nationals have against foreign governments since 1954.
FCSC was established as a result of the Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1954, through which President Eisenhower transferred the functions of the War Claims Commission and International Claims Commission to FCSC. The War Claims Commission had been created as a temporary agency by the War Claims Act of 1948, to settle claims of former U.S. World War II prisoners of war and civilian internees captured, or in hiding to avoid capture, in places like the Philippines, and, in the case of prisoners of war, in Germany and other Axis countries.
From 1949 to April 1, 1954, approximately $134 million was paid to claimants as a result of determinations by the War Claims Commission. The International Claims Commission, established within the Department of the State by the International Claims Settlement Act of 1949, was at first just responsible for adjudicating claims involving the Yugoslav government. But it was authorized to also handle future similar claims between the U.S. and other foreign governments, and from 1950 to April 1, 1954 it settled 531 various claims. In total, the three commissions together have adjudicated more than 660,000 claims, with awards amounting to billions of dollars.
Fresh off his election victory, President Barack Obama has opted for continuity in the leadership of a little-known independent agency within the Department of Justice that settles claims that Americans have against foreign governments. On November 15, Obama nominated Timothy J. Feighery to continue serving as Chairman of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FCSC), a position he has held since March 21, 2011. Feighery, who succeeded Rafael Martinez, saw his term expire on September 30.
Born in 1962 in the Bronx, New York, Feighery earned a B.A. in Philosophy in 1984 and a J.D. in 1987, both from Fordham University. During law school he also worked at a family-owned bar/restaurant in Carmel, N.Y., from 1984 to 1986. After graduating law school and passing the New York bar exam, Feighery practiced law as an associate at Kaye Scholer, LLP in New York, Brussels, Belgium, and Washington, D.C., from May 1986 to December 1995.
Feighery left private practice for public service as a team leader at the United Nations Compensation Commission in Geneva, Switzerland, established to address claims arising out of Iraq’s 1990 invasion and occupation of Kuwait. He served as a team leader from February 1996 to July 1998, and later returned to serve as chief of section of the Legal Services Branch from January 2000 to August 2003. In between his two stints in Geneva, Feighery served as a senior attorney in the Bureau of Competition at the Federal Trade Commission, where he worked from August 1998 to December 1999.
Upon his return from Geneva, from August 2003 to July 2004 Feighery was a deputy special master for the Justice Department’s September 11, 2001, Victim Compensation Fund, where he was responsible for assessing claims made by victims of the 9/11 attacks. From July 2004 until his 2011 appointment to the FCSC, Feighery served as an attorney adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the State Department, where he represented U.S. interests in international arbitration and foreign investment disputes.
Feighery served as co-vice chair of the American Bar Association Committee on International Courts from 2008 to 2010. He taught International Law and European Union Law as an adjunct professor at the George Mason University School of Law from August 2005 to May 2010, and taught Business Law at Webster University in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1997.
Feighery and his wife Sarah have three children: Finn, Teddy and Anne. He contributed $250 to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Rafael E. “Ralph” Martinez has served as a part-time commissioner on the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission since his appointment in 2008 by President George W. Bush. He was sworn in on May 28, 2008. His term expires September 30, 2010.