WUSTL law dean to oversee $20 billion BP Gulf fund

Syverud one of two trustees for Gulf of Mexico oil spill compensation account

Kent D. Syverud, JD, dean of the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law and the Ethan A.H. Shepley University Professor, has been named a trustee of the $20 billion Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust.


Syverud, who also serves as WUSTL’s associate vice chancellor of Washington, D.C., programs, is one of two appointees who will oversee the newly established trust. The other trustee is John S. Martin Jr., a distinguished retired federal judge in New York.

The trustees will administer the account. Claims processor, attorney Kenneth Feinberg, will determine eligibility.

The fund is designed to settle legitimate claims against BP resulting from the Deepwater Horizon explosion April 20, 2010, which prompted a massive oil and gas spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Syverud called the appointment “an honor and a great public responsibility.”

“This spill has been a traumatic experience for so many,” Syverud says.

He wants the trust, which was created by BP in negotiations with the U.S. Department of Justice, “to be responsibly administered for the benefit of those with legitimate claims.”

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.”

Syverud was named dean in April 2005. Before joining the WUSTL faculty, he served as dean of the Vanderbilt Law School from 1997 to June 2005, where he was the Garner Anthony Professor of Law. He established a reputation as a prominent scholar in complex litigation, insurance law and civil procedure at Vanderbilt and at the University of Michigan Law School, where he taught from 1987-1997.

He also practiced law at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering in Washington, D.C., and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

His scholarship includes research on legal education as well as empirical studies of civil jury trials and the settlements that precede them. His most recent articles are “How Deans (and Presidents) Should Quit” in the Journal of Legal Education (2007) and “Lessons from Working for Sandra Day O’Connor” in the Stanford Law Review (2006).

A renowned teacher, Syverud won outstanding teaching awards at both Vanderbilt and Michigan. His scholarly work includes articles on teaching. In 2005, Syverud was named the Mark and Beth Goldberg Distinguished Visiting Professor at Cornell Law School. He also was a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania in 1997 and at the University of Tokyo in 1993.

He has served as president of the American Law Deans Association and the Southeastern Association of Law Schools. He chaired the Board of Trustees of the Law School Admission Council from 2005-07. He was editor of the Journal of Legal Education from 1998-2004.

For interviews, please contact Syverud’s office directly at (314) 935-6420 or Nancy Fowler Larson at Nancy_Larson@aismail.wustl.edu until Jessica Martin returns Sept. 7, 2010.

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