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October 21, 2018

Sheldon Silver Arrest Shows The Seamy Side Of Asbestos Litigation

Federal prosecutors unsealed a criminal complaint against New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, detailing long-rumored allegations about how a prominent asbestos law firm steered millions of dollars to the powerful politician in exchange for client referrals from a doctor, who in turn is accused of accepting favors from Silver.

The 35-page complaint by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York accuses Silver of accepting more than $5.3 million in payments from Weitz & Luxenberg, a New York law firm that specializes in asbestos lawsuits. Silver is also accused of obtaining the money in exchange for client referrals from an unnamed doctor in Manhattan who is cooperating with prosecutors under non-prosecution agreement. The doctor is accused of receiving substantial benefits from the Speaker, including $500,000 in grants for his mesothelioma research clinic and a job for a family member at a state-funded non-profit.

The complaint accuses Silver of using his office to obtain “referral fees” in exchange for little or no actual legal work, and failing to report some of them on his personal finance statements. He obtained more than $500,000 in fees from another law firm specializing in real estate appraisal appeals, prosecutors said. No one in Silver’s office was immediately available for comment.

It has long been known that Silver earned hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from Weitz & Luxenberg, but under New York’s lax reporting rules he wasn’t required to say exactly how much or what he did for the money. Today’s complaint provides more detail, showing how the extraordinarily lucrative business of suing over asbestos generates enough fee income to finance “research grants” to doctors who refer clients back to them.

Citing records pulled by the state’s short-lived Moreland Commission as well a a federal investigation, prosecutors say Silver parlayed his relationship with the physician identified as “Doctor-1″ to funnel clients to Weitz & Luxenberg in exchange for 33% of the firm’s take on any case. The doctor is further identified as running a mesothelioma research center at a major university, and having received a commendation from the Assembly in May, 2011.

Dr. Robert Taub runs the Columbia University Mesothelioma Center and received a commendation in May 2011, He was until 2013 affiliated with the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, whose major supporters include asbestos attorney Peter Angelos. Taub hasn’t been charged with wrongdoing and wasn’t immediately available for comment.

According to the complaint, Silver met Doctor-1 through a mutual friend. The doctor had never referred patients to Weitz & Luxenberg because they didn’t fund mesothelioma research, the complaint says. Soon after learning that Silver had joined the firm in 2002, the doctor asked him if Weitz & Luxenberg would start funding research.

Silver told him he should start referring his patients to the firm, prosecutors say, and that state funds were available for his research. (New York allocated $8.5 million a year to a discretionary fund, controlled by Silver, for healthcare grants, until that fund was discontinued in 2007.) Seven weeks after the doctor made his first referral to Weitz & Luxenberg, records show, he made a $250,000 grant request to the state. The letter was addressed to Silver. On July 5, 2005, Silver directed a $250,000 grant to the doctor’s mesothelioma center. The letter said the money would be for mesothelioma research including on the effects of the Sept. 11 catastrophe in Silver’s district, but didn’t mention the client referrals Silver was getting.

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Sheldon Silver Arrest Shows The Seamy Side Of Asbestos Litigation

Feds say cleanup of Montana mining town working

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A long-delayed risk study released Monday for a Montana mining town where hundreds of people have died from asbestos poisoning concludes cleanup practices now in place are reducing risks to residents.

However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged there is no way to remove all the asbestos from the area and inhaling even a minute amount could cause lung problems.

The 328-page draft document will be used to guide the remaining cleanup of asbestos dust stemming from a W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine outside Libby, a town of 2,600 people about 50 miles south of the Canada border.

The scenic mountain community has become synonymous with asbestos dangers. Health workers estimate 400 people have been killed and more than 2,000 sickened in Libby and the surrounding area.

Dozens of sites across the U.S. received or processed vermiculite from Libby’s mine, which was used as insulation in millions of homes.

The EPA study used lung scarring — not just cancer deaths — to help determine how much danger asbestos poses to people who remain in Libby, where the contaminated vermiculite had been widely used in homes, as construction fill, and for other purposes before its dangers were known.

The EPA already has conducted cleanup work on more than 2,000 homes, businesses and other properties in the Libby area at a cost of roughly $500 million.

Concentrations of asbestos in the air around town is now 100,000 times lower than when the mine was operating from 1963 to 1990, the EPA said.

Those levels could be higher at the mine site — where cleanup work has barely started — and in areas where property owners have not given access to EPA contractors, the agency said.

“Where EPA has conducted cleanup, those cleanups are effective,” said Rebecca Thomas, EPA project manager in Libby.

She added that there will be some residual contamination left behind but only in places where officials determine there’s no threat of human exposure.

“As long as no one’s exposed to it, it doesn’t pose a risk and we’ll leave it in place,” Thomas said.

W.R. Grace and industry groups have criticized the EPA’s low threshold for exposure as unjustified and impossible to attain. They said the EPA limit was lower than naturally occurring asbestos levels in some places.

The criticism was one of the factors that delayed the risk study. In a report last year, the EPA’s inspector general said internal agency issues including contracting problems and unanticipated work also contributed to the delay.

W.R. Grace was “pleased to see EPA believes it has effectively managed the health risk to acceptable levels,” said Rich Badmington, a spokesman for the Columbia, Maryland-based chemical company

Still, the company believes the EPA’s threshold for exposure is too low, he said.

The town remains under a first-of-its kind public health emergency declaration issued by former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson in 2009.

Cleanup work is pending for as many as 500 homes and businesses in Libby and nearby Troy. Completing that work will take three to five years, Thomas said.

Because of the long latency period for asbestos-related diseases, it could be many years before some people in Libby develop medical complications.

Libby Mayor Doug Roll said moving forward with the study was critical for the tourism- and mining-dependent town. Roll said Libby wants to overcome its image of a poisoned community.

“Grace was the stumbling block, trying to put a bunch of their input into it,” Roll said. “We’re trying to get out from underneath this cloud and start promoting Libby as a place you can come and visit — and not worry about the air quality.”

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Feds say cleanup of Montana mining town working

Study of Montana Mining Town Says Cleanup Working

A long-delayed risk study released Monday for a Montana mining town where hundreds of people have died from asbestos poisoning concludes cleanup practices now in place are reducing risks to residents.

However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged there is no way to remove all the asbestos from the area and inhaling even a minute amount could cause lung problems.

The 328-page draft document will be used to guide the remaining cleanup of asbestos dust stemming from a W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine outside Libby, a town of 2,600 people about 50 miles south of the Canada border.

The scenic mountain community has become synonymous with asbestos dangers. Health workers estimate 400 people have been killed and more than 2,000 sickened in Libby and the surrounding area.

Dozens of sites across the U.S. received or processed vermiculite from Libby’s mine, which was used as insulation in millions of homes.

The EPA study used lung scarring ? not just cancer deaths ? to help determine how much danger asbestos poses to people who remain in Libby, where the contaminated vermiculite had been widely used in homes, as construction fill, and for other purposes before its dangers were known.

The EPA already has conducted cleanup work on more than 2,000 homes, businesses and other properties in the Libby area at a cost of roughly $500 million.

Concentrations of asbestos in the air around town is now 100,000 times lower than when the mine was operating from 1963 to 1990, the EPA said.

Those levels could be higher at the mine site ? where cleanup work has barely started ? and in areas where property owners have not given access to EPA contractors, the agency said.

“Where EPA has conducted cleanup, those cleanups are effective,” said Rebecca Thomas, EPA project manager in Libby.

She added that there will be some residual contamination left behind but only in places where officials determine there’s no threat of human exposure.

“As long as no one’s exposed to it, it doesn’t pose a risk and we’ll leave it in place,” Thomas said.

W.R. Grace and industry groups have criticized the EPA’s low threshold for exposure as unjustified and impossible to attain. They said the EPA limit was lower than naturally occurring asbestos levels in some places.

The criticism was one of the factors that delayed the risk study. In a report last year, the EPA’s inspector general said internal agency issues including contracting problems and unanticipated work also contributed to the delay.

W.R. Grace was “pleased to see EPA believes it has effectively managed the health risk to acceptable levels,” said Rich Badmington, a spokesman for the Columbia, Maryland-based chemical company

Still, the company believes the EPA’s threshold for exposure is too low, he said.

The town remains under a first-of-its kind public health emergency declaration issued by former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson in 2009.

Cleanup work is pending for as many as 500 homes and businesses in Libby and nearby Troy. Completing that work will take three to five years, Thomas said.

Because of the long latency period for asbestos-related diseases, it could be many years before some people in Libby develop medical complications.

Libby Mayor Doug Roll said moving forward with the study was critical for the tourism- and mining-dependent town. Roll said Libby wants to overcome its image of a poisoned community.

“Grace was the stumbling block, trying to put a bunch of their input into it,” Roll said. “We’re trying to get out from underneath this cloud and start promoting Libby as a place you can come and visit ? and not worry about the air quality.”

Original article:

Study of Montana Mining Town Says Cleanup Working

Elmwood Park's Sealed Air pays $930 million in cash to asbestos trust

Sealed Air Corp., the Elmwood Park maker of Bubble Wrap, has paid $930 million in cash into a trust for asbestos victims, the company said Tuesday. The payment settles a claim that arose after Sealed Air bought a business from W.R. Grace & Co., which filed for bankruptcy after facing millions of dollars in asbestos claims.

W.R. Grace emerged from bankruptcy Monday, after almost 13 years, which cleared the way for Sealed Air to pay the settlement.

“This is very positive news for Sealed Air, as the completion of the settlement has been anticipated for some time and now brings finality to a matter after more than a decade of preparation,” said Jerome A. Peribere, CEO of Sealed Air. “We will no longer incur interest on the settlement, which amounted to $48 million in 2013. Additionally, we anticipate meaningful cash tax benefits over the next several years.”

In addition to the $930 million in cash, the company also paid 18 million shares of Sealed Air common stock, with a value of more than $540 million, based on Tuesday’s share value.

The claims against Sealed Air grew out of its $4.3 billion purchase of Cryovac, a flexible packaging business, from W.R. Grace in 1998. Some plaintiffs accused W.R. Grace of fraudulently transferring assets to Sealed Air “to the detriment of creditors holding asbestos claims against Grace.”

Sealed Air agreed in 2002 to pay $512 million to settle the claims, but that agreement was held up by litigation over the W.R. Grace bankruptcy, which dragged on for almost 13 years, in what is believed to be the longest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Sealed Air’s payment grew to $930 million because of interest. The total value of the W.R. Grace-related asbestos trusts, which will be used to pay people injured by asbestos, is almost $4 billion.

In a research note, analysts Ghansham Panjabi and Mehul Dalia of R.W. Baird said the resolution of the W.R. Grace agreement is worth about $2 a share to Sealed Air, because Sealed Air will no longer face interest costs on the settlement, and it will be able to take a tax deduction for the settlement amount.

The analysts called the event “a modest positive” for Sealed Air shares.

W.R. Grace, a Columbia, Md.-based chemical and materials manufacturer that was founded in 1854, was hit hard by asbestos injury litigation.

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Elmwood Park's Sealed Air pays $930 million in cash to asbestos trust

Research and Markets: Asbestos Market Review (2012-2016) – Thorough Study Covering both Global and Regional Markets

DUBLIN–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/hw64lg/asbestos_market)
has announced the addition of the “Asbestos
Market Review”
report to their offering.

Asbestos Market Review is an absolutely essential resource for anyone
interested in the detailed information on the reviewed market. Using a
wide range of primary and secondary sources, we combined, analyzed and
presented all available data about Asbestos in the all-in-one report
issued in a coherent format.

In addition to the descriptive part, the report provides a range of
tables and figures which give a true insight into the relevant national,
regional and global markets of Asbestos.

The report also features next five year forecasts by market experts and
analysts.

Scope

– The report represents a thorough study of Asbestos, covering both
global and regional markets.

– It aims to give a proper picture of the pertinent market, as well as
its trends, perspectives and opportunities.

– It covers the present situation, historical background and future
forecast of Asbestos market.

– Comprehensive data showing Asbestos production, consumption, trade
statistics and prices are provided (both nationwide and worldwide).

– Each country’s market overview covers the following: Asbestos
production in the country, major producers, Asbestos consumption in the
country market, Asbestos trade in the country, Asbestos prices.

– The report offers a 5 year outlook on the reviewed market, including
Asbestos market volume predictions and price trends.

Key Topics Covered:

DISCLAIMER

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

1. WORLD ASBESTOS MARKET

1.1. Asbestos in Global Industry

1.2. Asbestos Market Overview

1.3. Asbestos Prices

2. AMERICAS MARKET OF ASBESTOS

2.1. USA

2.2. Canada

3. LATIN AMERICAN MARKET OF ASBESTOS

3.1. Argentina

3.2. Brazil

3.3. Columbia

4. EUROPEAN MARKET OF ASBESTOS

4.1. Russia

4.2. Kazakhstan

5. ASIAN AND MIDDLE EAST MARKET OF ASBESTOS

5.1. China

5.2. India

6. AFRICAN MARKET OF ASBESTOS

6.1. Zimbabwe

7. FUTURE OUTLOOK (2012-2016)

For more information visit http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/hw64lg/asbestos_market

Contact:

Research and Markets

Laura Wood, Senior Manager


press@researchandmarkets.com

U.S. Fax: 646-607-1907

Fax (outside U.S.): +353-1-481-1716

Sector:

Process and Materials

Link:

Research and Markets: Asbestos Market Review (2012-2016) – Thorough Study Covering both Global and Regional Markets

Correction: WR Grace-Asbestos story

COLUMBIA, Md. (AP) — In a story Jan. 24 about W.R. Grace taking a $365 million charge, The Associated Press reported erroneously the reason for the charge. The $365 million is an adjustment to asbestos-related liabilities on the company’s balance sheet. It reflects the increase in value of stock warrants and deferred payments obligations that W.R. Grace placed into a trust that was established to pay asbestos liability claims. It does not reflect an increase in the estimated costs of settling the claims.

A corrected version of the story is below:

W.R. Grace raises asbestos liability to over $2B

W.R. Grace raises liability for asbestos claims to more than $2 billion

COLUMBIA, Md. (AP) — Chemical and building material manufacturer W.R. Grace & Co. said Thursday that it will raise its recorded liability for asbestos claims to $2.07 billion.

Previously the amount had been $1.7 billion.

The company said it will report a $365 million charge for the fourth quarter.

Grace had to increase the amount of asbestos-related liabilities on its balance sheet because of an increase in value of stock warrants and deferred payments obligations that the company placed into a trust that was established to pay asbestos liability claims.

The company originally filed for bankruptcy protection in April 2001 so it could resolve its asbestos-related liabilities. A bankruptcy court reaffirmed its reorganization plan in June, but several parties filed to appeal.

Shares of the Columbia, Md., company fell 41 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $71.50 in after-hours trading Thursday.

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Correction: WR Grace-Asbestos story

W.R. Grace raises asbestos liability to over $2B

COLUMBIA, Md. (AP) — Chemical and building material manufacturer W.R. Grace & Co. said Thursday that it will raise its recorded liability for asbestos claims to $2.07 billion.

Previously the amount had been $1.7 billion.

The company said it will report a $365 million charge for the fourth quarter.

The increase was necessary because of rising estimates for the settlement of asbestos claims under its reorganization plan, the company said.

The company originally filed for bankruptcy protection in April 2001 so it could resolve its asbestos-related liabilities. A bankruptcy court reaffirmed its reorganization plan in June, but several parties filed to appeal.

Shares of the Columbia, Md., company fell 41 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $71.50 in after-hours trading Thursday.

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W.R. Grace raises asbestos liability to over $2B