Dean Syverud Named Trustee of $20 billion BP Gulf Fund

Kent D. Syverud, dean of the law school and the Ethan A.H. Shepley University Professor, has been named a trustee of the $20 billion Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust. An expert in complex litigation, insurance law, and civil procedure, Syverud is one of two appointees who is overseeing the newly established trust. The other trustee is the Hon. John S. Martin, Jr., a former U.S. District judge for the Southern District of New York.

Syverud, who also serves as associate vice chancellor of Washington, D.C., programs, called the appointment “an honor and a great public responsibility.”

“This spill has been a traumatic experience for so many,” says Syverud, who stressed the importance of the fund being “responsibly administered for the benefit of those with legitimate claims.”

The fund is designed to settle legitimate claims against BP resulting from the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20, 2010, which prompted a massive oil and gas spill in the Gulf of Mexico. On June 16, 2010, following consultations with the U.S. Government, BP announced that it would transition the claims process required under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to an independent claims facility managed by Kenneth Feinberg. The $20 billion escrow account is being established in phases to satisfy claims ranging from Oil Pollution Act claims to natural resource damages to state and local response costs. Feinberg will determine eligibility, and Syverud and Martin will oversee administration of the account.

An expert in dispute resolution and negotiation, Syverud joins two other distinguished appointees. While on the bench, Martin oversaw litigation related to insurance coverage stemming from the September 11 terrorist attacks, and Feinberg served as Special Master of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund.

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton praised Syverud as he noted the importance of the appointment. “It is a great honor for both Kent Syverud and the Washington University School of Law for him to be named to this role—a critical component of the recovery and restoration efforts for the communities and people so deeply affected by the oil spill in the Gulf,” Wrighton says. “I am confident that Kent will be a valuable resource to the team and I am pleased with his willingness to take on this important responsibility.”

Before joining Washington University, Syverud served as dean of Vanderbilt Law School from 1997 to 2005. He established a reputation as a prominent scholar in complex litigation, insurance law, and civil procedure at Vanderbilt and the University of Michigan Law School, where he taught from 1987 to 1997. He also practiced law at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering in Washington, D.C., and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Syverud has published extensively on settlement negotiations, including articles in the Virginia Law Review, Michigan Law Review, and UCLA Law Review. In addition to his empirical studies of civil jury trials and the settlements that precede them, he has written widely on issues in legal education.

A renowned teacher and national leader in legal education, Syverud has served as president of the American Law Deans Association and the Southeastern Association of Law Schools and chaired the Board of Trustees of the Law School Admission Council.

Summer 2010