Well, if you thought the U.S. Chamber of Congress couldn’t get any more shameless, then guess again. The same lobbying group that tried to deny climate change and promote cigarette smoking is now fighting so that exploited asbestos victims can’t receive the compensation they deserve.
On February 19th, the Chamber released a study that described a “pattern of inconsistencies” in asbestos trust claims. The study concluded that more “external oversight and reform” were needed in the asbestos bankruptcy trust system. However, given the interests represented by the Chamber as well as the Chamber’s past efforts to hinder asbestos litigation, it is obvious that this study is nothing more than a coy ploy to save big asbestos more money – money that would otherwise be paid out to deserving asbestos victims and their families.
A Suspicious Study with Questionable Motives
The Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) reported that it had studied 100 randomly selected claim forms submitted in the bankruptcy proceedings of Garlock Sealing Technologies, Inc. According to the ILR, there were significant problems with the randomly selected questionnaires. Some of the alleged “inconsistencies” included claimants failing to list all of their previous employers, claimants failing to describe the exact product or brand name of the source of their exposure, and claimants stating “inconsistent job descriptions and implausible exposure allegations.”
The study also said that claimants listed “incompatible” job dates, meaning that the dates for different jobs overlapped. Apparently no one in the Chamber understands that hard-working Americans sometimes take 2 jobs to pay the bills and feed their families.
It is clear that the ILR study was an exercise in excessive nitpicking and exaggeration done to drum up obstacles for asbestos victims. Its publication should be seen as just another initiative from the Chamber to help the large corporations of the asbestos industry – Dow Chemical, Koch Industries, 3M, and Honeywell, among others – to avoid paying for the harm they’ve caused.
A Lobbying Superpower
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the largest lobbying organization in the world. In Washington and throughout the globe, the Chamber promotes the interests of its some 300,000 member businesses and corporations. Although many Americans perceive the Chamber as a coalition of small businesses, it is in fact an organization dominated by some of the largest corporations in America. These corporations use the chamber to influence politics, promote their interests, and ultimately make more profits.
One of the largest focuses for the Chamber in recent years has been promoting the interests of the asbestos industry. The Chamber has spent millions lobbying in favor of the Furthering Asbestos Claims and Transparency (FACT) Act, a bill that would make it very difficult for suffering asbestos exposure victims to make claims on bankruptcy trusts. The FACT Act, which unfortunately recently passed in the House and is now awaiting action in the Senate, would require any individual who files an asbestos-related lawsuit to publish highly sensitive information on the Internet, including a partial social security number. This would also leave the claimant highly vulnerable to cybercrime and identity theft.
Linda Reinstein, mesothelioma widow and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), wrote an open letter to Congress expressing her disapproval of the FACT Act. In the letter, Reinstein criticized the asbestos industry’s lobbying efforts, many of which have been carried out via the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
“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. I oppose the bill not only because it is both fundamentally unfair and discriminatory toward asbestos cancer victims, but because it is entirely one-sided, and seeks absolutely nothing in the way of increased transparency from the same industry that caused the largest man-made disaster in human history, and covered it up for years.”