Chamber study finds 'inconsistencies' in asbestos trust claims

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a study Friday that found inconsistencies in claims made to the asbestos trusts used to compensate people harmed from exposure to asbestos.

The chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) said it analyzed information from 100 randomly selected personal information questionnaires submitted by asbestos plaintiffs in the bankruptcy proceedings of Garlock Sealing Technologies, Inc. and found that 69 percent of victims making claims failed to list every place they’ve been employed, making it impossible for the trusts to verify job site information.

The chamber’s study also found that 15 percent of claimants failed to list the specific products from which they were allegedly exposed; 55 percent had date discrepancies and 21 percent of claims contained other troubling inconsistencies, such as differing medical diagnoses, conflicting job descriptions and implausible exposure allegations.

“This study shows a system without accountability and demonstrates the urgent need for external oversight and reform of the asbestos bankruptcy trusts,” Lisa Rickard, ILR’s president, said in a news release. “Twenty-three bankruptcy trusts have already had to reduce payments to asbestos claimants – with some trusts paying pennies on the dollar – and if we do nothing to rein in these abuses there is a very likely possibility some trusts will not have enough money to compensate future asbestos claimants.”

The study comes shortly after the House passed legislation last month to protect these finite trusts, which account for $30 billion, from fraudulent claims by requiring asbestos victims to report certain information when seeking compensation.

The bill has outraged advocates for asbestos victims, who say legislation will slow the payment process and make victims susceptible to identity thieves. The legislation is now being considered on the Senate side.

"These same manufacturing interests, who for years hid the dangers of their lethal asbestos products, are now asking Congress —under the guise of transparency — to impose new time and cost-consuming requirements on the asbestos trusts, grant asbestos defendants new rights to infringe upon victims’ privacy and operate the trusts in a manner that will unduly burden asbestos victims and their families without justification,” Linda Reinstein, president and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, said in written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month.