BI’s Article search uses Boolean search capabilities. If you are not familiar with these principles, here are some quick tips.

To search specifically for more than one word, put the search term in quotation marks. For example, “workers compensation”. This will limit your search to that combination of words.

To search for a combination of terms, use quotations and the & symbol. For example, “hurricane” & “loss”.

Login Register Subscribe

OPINION: Asbestos trusts need transparency to end fraud


THE SYSTEM of asbestos bankruptcy trusts created by Congress nearly 20 years ago was designed to make sure people injured by exposure to asbestos could be compensated.

But over the years, concerns have arisen that the current system can be gamed. There's a concern that claimants can seek multiple recoveries from different funds, or tap funds and the tort system. That's why we welcome the introduction of the Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act.

As we report on page 4, the act would require asbestos trust funds to make quarterly reports about claims and exposure allegations. The measure also would provide protection for claimants' identities and personal medical information. These are hardly radical ideas, but such disclosures could help deter duplicate claims.

A report issued by the Government Accountability Office last September said that between 2000 and 2011, the number of asbestos personal injury trusts increased from 16 to 60. The trusts' collective assets increased from a little over $4 billion to nearly $37 billion during the same period. That's a significant amount of money.

But one of the major problems is that the 60 trusts operate independently of each other, and there's no central clearinghouse for claims data and other information.

In addition, there's no linkage between the trusts—which represent the assets and liabilities of companies that sought bankruptcy protection because of asbestos claims—and the tort system, where solvent companies must defend asbestos claims.

No one knows how much fraud is involved in the system. But given the amount of money involved, greater transparency strikes us as a worthy—and imperative—goal.

It's a matter of fairness, and not just for those who are paying the claims, be they trusts, insurers or companies that are defending themselves in the tort system.

It's a matter of fairness for the claimants themselves. The purpose of the trusts is to compensate the injured. As we noted, there's an impressive amount of money involved, but it's not unlimited. Curbing even potential double-dipping and other fraudulent acts will help ensure there are adequate funds to compensate the truly ill.