A bill introduced at the beginning of the year — H.R. 526, the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015” — has been a dark cloud over the mesothelioma community and a subject of great debate in Congress. As both sides argue their cases, we feel that one thing is for certain: the FACT Act needs to die before it becomes a law.
What Is the FACT Act?
The FACT Act is a bill originally proposed by Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-TX) that would make it extremely difficult for victims of asbestos exposure to receive swift justice and compensation.
If passed, the bill would require asbestos trusts to publish quarterly, public reports containing details about the asbestos victims who sought compensation, as well as the reasoning behind the payments made. The details, which include a victim’s full name, exposure history, and even the last 4 digits of their Social Security number, would be posted online and accessible by anyone.
The bill is allegedly designed to cut down on fraud in asbestos-related litigation by promoting transparency. There’s 1 little problem with this reasoning, however — there are no proven incidents of fraud in asbestos litigation. A 2011 investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office took a look at possible fraudulent activity when it came to asbestos trust funds and they reported, “Of the trust officials that we interviewed that conducted audits, none indicated that these audits had identified cases of fraud.”
Why the Death of the FACT Act Is Critical
Supporters of the FACT Act are hanging on to unfounded claims, insisting the bill would be a positive thing. However, the truth is that there would be far too many negative consequences as a result of the FACT Act passing and becoming law.
- Victims seeking compensation may have to agree to unfair settlements — or they could die before they ever see a dime. This is because manufacturers of asbestos-containing products will be able to request excessive amounts of information and create more paperwork that can hold up the entire compensation process.
- The information publicly shared would be a total invasion of privacy. In February 2015, during a hearing before the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law of the Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives, Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) shared his concerns saying:
- This bill is backed by companies like Honeywell and Koch Industries — companies that manufactured and sold asbestos-containing products even though they were well aware of the dangers. If the FACT Act passed, all it would do is keep money in these companies’ pockets and hurt anyone seeking compensation from an asbestos trust.
“[The FACT Act] imposes invasive disclosure requirements that would threaten asbestos victims’ privacy when they seek payment for injuries from an asbestos bankruptcy trust…asbestos victims will be re-victimized by allowing this highly personal and sensitive health information to be irretrievably released into the public domain. Just imagine what insurance companies, prospective employers, lenders, data collectors, and others could do with this private information. Worse yet, these asbestos victims would be more vulnerable to predators.”
Mesothelioma advocates are fighting back hard against the FACT Act and we truly hope this bill will not make it any further in the path toward becoming a law. You can do your part by writing to your state representatives and voicing your opinion, or simply by spreading the word on a local level and talking to family and friends. Let’s make sure the FACT Act doesn’t pass!