A fair legal climate is one that places openness and transparency as guiding principles above all others. However, current federal laws governing asbestos trust claims allow these trusts to conduct much of their work behind curtains of secrecy, rarely sharing claims information with other trusts, tort litigants or the public. The NC Chamber fights for transparency not only in our state, but also at the federal level. That’s why, in the coming weeks, we will join with other business leaders to urge Congress to pass a commonsense asbestos transparency bill, as part of a national coalition led by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR).
The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act would lift the curtain of secrecy from asbestos trusts by requiring these funds to publicly disclose claims information. By ensuring asbestos trusts operate in concert with, rather than parallel to, the tort system, the more than $36 billion in assets currently held by these funds will be safeguarded for the future use of genuine victims of asbestos exposure rather than the fraudulent claimants empowered by the current system. With asbestos firms spending hundreds of millions of advertising dollars every year to target questionable claimants, transparency in the asbestos claims system is not just important for a fair legal system – it’s essential.
Don’t believe asbestos claim fraud is a problem impacting our state? A federal court in North Carolina ruled that asbestos plaintiffs’ attorneys are withholding and manipulating their clients’ trust claims to increase tort settlements, while various media investigations and court cases have exposed the prevalence of questionable claims in the trust system; further, independent experts at the GAO and Rand Corporation concluded that asbestos trusts are especially susceptible to fraud, abuse and payment of improper claims. The NC Chamber recognizes these concerns, and as part of the ILR coalition we will continue to fight for transparency in asbestos claims laws as we work to support a fair legal climate for job creators.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber