W.R. Grace and Company to settle the remainder of asbestos injury claims

W. R. Grace and Company (NYSE: GRA) has finally settled asbestos injury claims by an agreement to pay the remainder of those cases as much as $1.8 billion.

W. R. Grace and Company has faced more than 250,000 asbestos-related lawsuits. 150,000 lawsuits have been settled or dismissed and 120,000 remain.

Under the agreement, the company will pay $1.8 billion into the trust for victims of its asbestos-related products, including insulation. The company will pay out at first $250 million, and provide the rest of the sum within 2019-2034 years.

The agreement also enables claimants to buy 10 million shares at $17 a share. The equity may bring the total value of the settlement to about $3 billion.

Asbestos claims lead W. R. Grace & Company to bankruptcy in 2001 and it had to file for bankruptcy protection. The United States Department of Justice determined that Grace had transferred 4 to 5 billion dollars to spin-off companies it had recently purchased, shortly before declaring bankruptcy. Justice Department attornies found that this amounted to a "fraudulent transfer" of money in order to protect Grace from civil suits related to asbestos. The bankruptcy court ordered the companies to return nearly $1 billion to Grace, which will remain as part of the assets to consider in the bankruptcy hearings.

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice began criminal proceedings against W.R. Grace. The department announced that a grand jury in Montana indicted W.R. Grace and seven current and former Grace executives for knowingly endangering residents of Libby , Montana , and concealing information about the health affects of its asbestos mining operations. According to the indictment, W. R. Grace and its executives, as far back as the 1970s, attempted to conceal information about the adverse health effects of the company’s vermiculite mining operations and distribution of vermiculite in the Libby, Montana community. The defendants are also accused of obstructing the government’s cleanup efforts and wire fraud. To date, according to the indictment, approximately 1,200 residents of Libby area have been identified as suffering from some kind of asbestos-related abnormality.

Despite the fact that Grace is troubled with asbestos lawsuits, it still sells $1.4 billion of products a year. Grace no longer makes asbestos-related products.

Photo: www.heritage.org

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