WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) – On Monday, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, introduced the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015 in the U.S. House of Representatives, where it was then sent to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.
The bill seeks to amend title 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, requiring public disclosure by asbestos bankruptcy settlement trusts according to section 524(g) of the title.
If passed, the bill would require asbestos bankruptcy trusts to release information on those seeking compensation due to asbestos exposure in quarterly reports, including detailed information regarding the receipt and disposition of claims for asbestos-related injuries.
The govtrack.us website, a government transparency website, predicts that the bill only has a seven percent chance of getting past the committee and a two percent chance of being enacted.
Officially titled H.R. 526, the FACT Act of 2015 is the third attempt at getting an asbestos bankruptcy trust transparency bill passed.
Representative Ben Quayle, R-Ariz., introduced the FACT Act of 2012, or H.R. 4369, on April 17, 2012, but it died by June of that year.
Then Ferenthold introduced the House FACT Act of 2013, or H.R. 982, on March 6, 2013. It was later passed in a 221-199 vote on Nov. 13, 2014. The vote remained mostly on the party lines as only five Democrats voted for the Act. It was then sent to the Senate for approval.
While the House bill was pending in the Senate, U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., introduced the Senate bill, officially titled S. 2319, six months later.
Approximately 100 companies have been forced into bankruptcy due to asbestos-related liabilities, creating an asbestos bankruptcy trust system with between $30 billion and $37 billion reserved for current and future asbestos claimants.
Last year U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George Hodges ruled in a landmark decision that asbestos plaintiffs attorneys have been withholding evidence while pursuing claims against Garlock Sealing Technologies, a gasket manufacturer.
According to his Jan. 10 order out of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Hodges ordered that the amount sufficient to satisfy the company’s asbestos liability is $125 million, roughly $1 billion less than what plaintiffs’ representatives felt was proper.
Since Hodges’ ruling, Garlock has become a poster child for the fight for transparency within the asbestos bankruptcy trust system, especially after Hodges ordered all documents pertaining to the estimation proceeding to be unsealed and made available to the public. Those documents are expected to be provided sometime this spring.
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