The president said the lawsuits were hurting victims of asbestos-related illness because bankruptcies by companies resulting from claims lacking merit were leaving those with valid claims nowhere to turn for compensation. The issue of asbestos lawsuits is a concern for Detroit's automobile companies, which have been sued by people who worked around brake parts with asbestos fibers.
Pardon me, but isn't the determination of whether there is a prima facie claim the job of a judge at a preliminary hearing? Oh wait, that must only refer to all the judges who don't "legislate from the bench", by doing their job of denying frivolous claims.
Why is the President making such an issue of this? Maybe it has nothing to do with keeping victims from being hurt- maybe it has more to do with Dick Cheney's pocket book.
Halliburton: Asbestos Cases Done
HOUSTON, Jan. 3, 2005
Halliburton Co.'s $4.17 billion settlement of thousands of asbestos claims has been finalized, the company announced Monday.
The Houston-based oil services conglomerate's construction and engineering subsidiary, KBR, and other subsidiaries that filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2003 as part of the settlement have emerged from Chapter 11.
The reorganization plan, which included a $2.775 billion cash payment with the rest in stock to settle 400,000 asbestos and 21,000 silica claims, received court approval in July last year and went into effect this past Friday, Dec. 31. Halliburton said the company anticipates funding trusts to pay the claims by the end of this month.
"The asbestos chapter in Halliburton's history is closed," said Dave Lesar, chairman and chief executive of Halliburton.
Halliburton inherited the claims when the company acquired Dresser Industries, Inc. for $7.7 billion in 1998, during Vice President Dick Cheney's 1995-2000 tenure as CEO. Most of the asbestos claims were filed against a former Dresser subsidiary, Pittsburgh-based Harbison-Walker Refractories Co.
Halliburton announced in September that KBR, formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root, may be sold or spun off if its stock performance fails to improve after the conclusion of the asbestos litigation. The unit's efforts to cut $80 million in costs include eliminating positions and re-examining project costs.
Halliburton and KBR have been criticized for multibillion-dollar contracts in Iraq and Kuwait to serve food, deliver fuel, handle mail and provide other services for U.S. troops. Several federal agencies are investigating allegations of overbilling and favoritism stemming from Cheney's past tenure as company head. Halliburton has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
You would think that proposing a legislative fix which will have a direct impact on the financies of a prominent member of the executive branch, since Dick Cheney is still receiving deferred payments from his time as CEO of Halliburton, would be a conflict of interest - wouldn't you?
Obviously not in the Bush Whitehouse.
(Technically, Cheney has insulated himself from a potential Halliburton bankruptcy by purchasing an insurance policy against his future payments from the company while he is vice president, however this policy has an escape clause that allows it not to pay if a Halliburton Bankruptcy is the result of "directly or indirectly" of changes in law or regulation)