Asbestos Injury Compensation: The Role and Administration of Asbestos Trusts
Asbestos litigation arose out of millions of Americans' lengthy occupational exposure to asbestos which is linked to malignant and nonmalignant diseases. To date, about 100 companies have declared bankruptcy at least partially due to asbestos-related liability. In accordance with Chapter 11 and 524(g) of the federal bankruptcy code, a company may transfer its liabilities and certain assets to an asbestos personal injury trust, which is then responsible for compensating present and future claimants. Since 1988, 60 trusts have been established to pay claims with about $37 billion in total assets. GAO was asked to examine asbestos trusts set up pursuant to 524(g). This report addresses: (1) How much asbestos trusts have paid in claims and how trusts are administered, (2) How trust claim and payment information is made available to outside parties, and (3) Stakeholder--plaintiff and defense attorneys, trust officials, and other interested parties--views on whether more trust and claimant information should be made available to outside parties and efforts to change the trust system and processes. GAO analyzed trust agreements for 44 of 60 trusts and trust distribution procedures for 52 of 60 trusts, as well as financial reports for 47 of 60 trusts for 2009 and 2010. GAO also interviewed U.S. Bankruptcy Court judges and the trustees, general counsels, or directors from 11 trusts..