U.S. judge to name Feinberg as Fiat Chrysler diesel settlement master

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A screen displays the ticker information for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV at the post where it's traded on the floorof the NYSE

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge overseeing lawsuits against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV <FCHA.MI> over its alleged excess diesel emissions said he intends to name well-known compensation expert Ken Feinberg to try to reach a settlement.

Feinberg has overseen compensation funds for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, General Motors <GM.N> ignition switch victims and the fallout from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion <BP.L>. He also worked as an consultant to Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE> on a compensation program stemming from its massive diesel emissions cheating scandal.

Federal judge Edward Chen in San Francisco said in an order issued last week that “there is a pressing need to determine if all or some of the pending matters can be resolved by the parties sooner rather than later.”

He gave all sides until Wednesday to file objections to naming Feinberg as settlement master.

Feinberg declined to comment Monday.

In May, the U.S. Justice Department sued Fiat Chrysler, accusing it of illegally using software that led to excess emissions in nearly 104,000 diesel vehicles sold since 2014.

A lawyer for Fiat Chrysler, Robert Giuffra, said last month the company is optimistic regulators will approve a proposed software update as part of certifying 2017 diesel models to allow them to go on sale. The same updated software would then be used to address any excess diesel emission issues in vehicles from the 2014-2016 model years already on the road.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board accused Fiat Chrysler in January of using undisclosed software to allow excess diesel emissions, which the government labeled a “defeat device.” They are both still reviewing the proposed fix.

Last month, Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said he was “confident of the fact that there was no intention on our part to set up a defeat device that was even remotely similar to what (Volkswagen) had in their cars.”

The Justice Department also has a separate criminal probe into the matter.

Feinberg was among the candidates proposed as a possible settlement master by both Fiat Chrysler and Elizabeth Cabraser, the lead lawyer for owners and dealers suing the company.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown)

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