Asbestos bankruptcy shenanigans

In 1994 “Congress fiddled with the bankruptcy code in a way that allowed trial lawyers to exploit asbestos bankruptcies. It works like this: In a normal bankruptcy, a creditor’s voting weight is mainly determined by how much he’s owed. But thanks to the 1994 change, all asbestos ‘creditors’ (claimants) are treated equally.” A dying cancer patient gets the same vote as someone with no detectible health impairment at all. “It didn’t take long for tort lawyers to figure out how to game this system. The leading asbestos law firms team up and pool their unimpaired plaintiffs (who each get a vote), draw up a plan that gives the bulk of the money to their clients, and then outvote the other creditors.” Once in control, the lawyers can begin in effect running the affairs of the company in ways that provide them with further benefits, including cutting themselves large fees for their administrative and dealmaking services. (“The latest asbestos scam” (editorial), WSJ, Jun. 1)($$) See also Mar. 15-16, 2003.

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