To the Editor:
“The Asbestos Scam, Part 2,” by Joe Nocera (column, Jan. 14), is an excellent explanation of the continuing fraud in asbestos litigation and why it hurts future asbestos victims, innocent companies and their employees, and the integrity of the American judicial system.
Companies have fought hard to expose this fraud but have found few listeners. Judge George Hodges, a federal bankruptcy judge, deserves credit for not accepting business as usual by allowing attorneys for Garlock Sealing Technologies to get access to asbestos bankruptcy trust records. The company discovered that, in hundreds of the cases that helped drive it into bankruptcy, plaintiffs’ attorneys withheld key evidence.
Other judges around the country should follow Judge Hodges’s lead. Better yet, the Senate should take up the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, passed by the House, which would require asbestos bankruptcy trusts to divulge information on all claims and prevent the kinds of “impropriety” that Judge Hodges uncovered.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys have lobbied hard to keep bankruptcy trust claims secret. Now we know why.
If Judge Hodges had approved the plaintiffs’ request for an additional $1 billion or more in the Garlock bankruptcy proceeding, the attorneys’ take would have been $300 million or more (assuming a 30 percent contingency fee) in addition to the ill-gotten gains they have already received by withholding evidence in other cases against the company.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers fight against transparency is not about asbestos victims; it is about making themselves even richer.
LISA A. RICKARD
President, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform
This letter to the editor first appeared on page A-18 of the New York Times on January 22, 2014