House to Hold Hearing Tomorrow Morning on ALEC Bill

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For Immediate Release: May 10, 2012

American Association for Justice
202-965-3500 x8369
House to Hold Hearing Tomorrow Morning on ALEC Bill
 
House Judiciary Committee to hold hearing on legislation crafted by corporate front groups, aimed at eliminating accountability for asbestos industry
 
Washington, DC Despite a recent cloud of overwhelming, negative attention hovering over the shadowy corporate front group, the American Legislation Excusive Council (ALEC), legislation crafted by ALEC and its corporate financiers has made its way to the U.S. Congress and the Judiciary Committee has scheduled time for a hearing on the legislation tomorrow, May 10, 2012. 
 
The “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2012” (H.R. 4369), is the third part of the latest tactic implemented by ALEC and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) on behalf of asbestos corporations and insurers to delay justice and deny accountability when people’s lives have been cut short by asbestos exposure. This strategy focuses on an easily misunderstood bankruptcy process and takes a three-pronged approach:
 
1.      State legislation: ALEC’s “Asbestos Claims Transparency Act” 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 17th 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).
 
The ultimate goals of this plan are to slow down asbestos cases enough so that victims of asbestos related-diseases die before they are able to receive justice and to deny accountability for causing diseases. 
 
The Facts
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. However, 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.
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