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Asbestos Liability News

Asbestos Liability News

Asbestos Liability News

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Public Citizen issues report opposing lobbying efforts deflecting asbestos liability

-May 10, 2005

According to the Public Citizen consumer group, what first began as a “good-faith effort to help the thousands of victims of asbestos” is instead providing a group of companies relief from their liability after spending millions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions to position themselves in a beneficial spot should proposed legislation pass.

The new Public Citizen report said that under the appearance of allowing compensation to victims of asbestos-related illnesses, a handful of Fortune 500 companies and at least 10 asbestos makers that have filed for bankruptcy would have their liabilities erased.

Legislation S. 852 is sponsored by Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and would create a privately funded, publicly run $140 billion trust fund that would operate for 30 years to compensate hundreds of thousands of American workers or their families who have suffered serious injury or death from asbestos-related illnesses.

The value of the contributions to the trust fund, however, would be substantially less than the amount of the existing liabilities. The report found that the total contributions on behalf of asbestos victims that would be paid by 10 large asbestos firms should they complete their bankruptcy proceedings under current law will decrease from an estimated $25.9 billion to $5.6 billon if S. 852 becomes law.

For asbestos companies, their total payments over the life of the fund on behalf of the asbestos victims will decline by margins ranging from 40.5 percent to 100 percent. At least eight Fortune 500 companies under S. 852 will see their annual asbestos payments to the trust fund capped at $27.5 million per year for 30 years regardless of how large their revenues or how many asbestos cases are currently pending against them. The companies’ projected liability versus what they would have to payout under the proposed legislation represents merely a percentage of the costs under the legislation.
Public Citizen is not the only group to provide opposition to the legislation, and should the legislation pass, a controversial debate is expected. Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, urged the Senate to protect American victims affected by asbestos products, for whom the legislation was intended, instead of defending the bottom lines of companies attempting to deflect responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of workers and their families that have and still are suffering.

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