U.S. House to Hold Hearing on ALEC Asbestos Bill

Shadowy front groups working on behalf of corporations that have profited from asbestos have convinced lawmakers to hold a hearing tomorrow on legislation that delays justice and allows corporations to deny accountability. The legislation was crafted by lobbyists for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR).

“Time is one thing victims of asbestos diseases do not have,” said American Association for Justice (AAJ) President Gary M. Paul. “This legislation serves only to help corporations delay and deny accountability so victims die before they are able to receive justice.”

For decades, ALEC and ILR have assisted asbestos corporations in covering-up the dangers of asbestos, villainizing the victims, misleading the public with propaganda and working to limit accountability through legislation. The “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2012” (H.R. 4369), is part of the latest tactic implemented by ALEC and ILR on behalf of asbestos corporations and insurers. This strategy focuses on an easily misunderstood bankruptcy process and takes a three-pronged approach:

  1. State legislation: In 2007, ALEC adopted the “Asbestos Claims Transparency Act.” This legislation has been introduced in Ohio, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, and West Virginia.
  2. Appeal to the Judicial Conference: In November 2010, ILR made a direct appeal to the Judicial Conference to change the rules governing bankruptcy law.
  3. Federal legislation: On April 17, 2012, Rep. Benjamin Quayle (R-AZ) along with two original co-sponsors, Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Dennis Ross (R-FL), introduced in the House the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2012” (H.R. 4369).

H.R. 4369 would require private asbestos bankruptcy trusts to publicly release extensive individual information about asbestos victims and would slow down asbestos cases by allowing asbestos defendants to bury the trusts in information requests, no matter how unnecessary or irrelevant.

Details

What: Hearing on ALEC / U.S. Chamber Asbestos Bill
Date: Thursday, May 10, 2012
Time: 9:30 AM EST
Location: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

The Facts

  • Asbestos exposure causes approximately 10,000 deaths every year.
  • Asbestos is still legal in the United States.
  • Research suggests that this bill is a solution in search of a problem:
    • A 2011 GAO report, requested by Rep. Lamar Smith at the bequest of U.S. Chamber, confirmed that there are no transparency issues with the asbestos bankruptcy trusts and the trusts already have measures in place to prevent fraud.
    • Additionally, an asbestos industry-funded RAND study found that, due to financial constraints, most trusts can only pay a fraction of what they owe to the victims and their families.