Washington, D.C. - Public interest groups are appealing to the House Cybersecurity Caucus to help oppose the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act. Many agree the Republican-backed bill will cause further pain to individuals who are already suffering from asbestos-related health problems such as mesothelioma cancer.
Among the five interests groups are the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund and the Public Citizen and the Center for Justice & Democracy. The co-chairs, Reps. Jim Langevin (D.R.I.) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas) wrote a letter to the House Cybersecurity Caucus asking them to help fight the 2015 FACT Act.
The FACT Act was approved by the Judiciary Committee with a record of 19-9. The next step is for the bill to go before the House at large. The corresponding Senate bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Congress and read twice before that committee, but no action has been taken so far.
The bill’s premise is to mandate asbestos trusts to file quarterly reports on their public bankruptcy dockets, including information such as payments made with their accompanying reasons. It proposes to create “transparency” in the procedures including damaged property, personal injuries, and even wrongful death.
Asbestos trusts were created to compensate workers and their families who have been affected by companies’ asbestos exposure. This bill is supposed to “protect these finite trusts from paying out money for fraudulent or inflated claims.” Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) was the originator to introduce it.
According to the EWG Action Fund, the bill will result in quite the opposite. Full names, birthdays, work histories, medical conditions, and parts of social security numbers will be forced to be revealed on the Internet in order to seek claims. Personal information will be put at risk to the very corporations that wrongfully used asbestos in the first place. Hence, the five public interest groups are reaching out to the caucus for backing.
Other critics say these requirements add another layer of punishment to the already great suffering of asbestos victims. Plus, the new reporting and administrative requirements would decrease the amount of compensation available to victims receiving payments from the trust funds.
“If the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus is to maintain its credibility as a bipartisan group whose mission is to protect all Americans from the growing threats of identity theft and cyber attack, it must oppose any legislation that would put any American at increased risk,” stated Langevin and McCaul in their letter to the caucus.