U.S. House Approves Asbestos Trust Disclosure Bill

 WASHINGTON, D.C. — (Mealey’s) Saying the measure will provide much needed transparency in the more than 60 asbestos-bankruptcy trusts and help prevent fraud, the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 13 passed House Resolution 982, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (FACT Act) by a 221-to-199 margin.

The legislation requires asbestos trusts to produce quarterly reports detailing claimant names, amounts paid and the basis for the payment. Opponents of the measure said that the disclosure of the medical basis for the claim and the last four digits of the claimants’ Social Security number on a publicly available website raises privacy issues. Opponents also argued that while couched as protecting victims’ rights, the legislation was not supported by any victims’ rights groups.

$18B In Assets

The FACT Act would apply to the 60 asbestos trusts formed under 11 U.S. Code Section 524(g) that hold more than $18 billion in assets, sources said. The reports would be made available on the courts’ public dockets.

Reps. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, and Jim Matheson, D-Utah, introduced the legislation.

Sources told Mealey Publications that it was the first congressional vote on asbestos legislation since 1994, when Congress created the trusts. A bill similar to HR 982 died in committee in last year.

Institute for Legal Reform President Lisa A. Rickard applauded the passage in a press release.

“Fraud and abuse in the asbestos compensation system drain the funds available to deserving claimants and force solvent companies, as well as their shareholders and employees, to pay unjust claims. The bipartisan FACT Act would further justice and diminish the damaging economic ripple effect of these abuses,” Rickard said.

The vote largely came along party lines; 216 Republicans voted in favor of the bill while seven voted against it, and 192 Democrats voted against it with five voting in favor.

President Barack Obama opposes the measure.

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