The South Carolina Civil Justice Coalition (SCCJC) sees the recent conviction of a former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver as further proof of the need for Congress to pass the Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency (FACT) Act.
Silver was convicted earlier this month on seven federal corruption charges. Federal prosecutors accused Silver of directing state grant money to a Columbia University cancer research center in return for referrals to a law firm from which Silver received referral fees.
“The Silver conviction is just another curtain pulled on corruption,” Earl Hunter, executive director at the SCCJC, told Palmetto Business Daily. “There are some lawyers who take advantage of the system set up to help others, and it gives those lawyers who truly want to help a bad name.”
Hunter explained that the FACT Act would help create the transparency needed to avoid future illegal activity involving asbestos claims.
“Without this transparency, it is hard for many companies to defend themselves.” Hunter said.
According to a U.S. House Judiciary Committee press release issued earlier this year, the FACT Act would reduce "fraud in the asbestos bankruptcy trust system through increased transparency measures. These measures ensure that asbestos bankruptcy trusts have the tools to combat fraud, which limits funds available for asbestos victims."
"Due to fraud in the asbestos trust system and duplicitous or conflicting claims, legitimate victims of asbestos do not always receive the relief they deserve," said House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). "The FACT Act would reduce fraud in the asbestos trust system so that victims of asbestos could receive maximum relief for their illnesses and injuries.”
By creating transparency, trusts will last longer for those who need it, SCCJC's Hunter explained.
Hunter added that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) should support the FACT Act because South Carolina has at least 250 businesses listed in almost every county of the state that "could be sued for asbestos issues.” These businesses include colleges, construction companies and textile industries.
“We have a great respect for Sen. Graham, and SCCJC is hopeful that Sen. Graham will support the business community and trust transparency,” Hunter said.
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