Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) participated in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week to discuss his reintroduction of the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency bill, or the FACT Act, with a focus on looking to further improve privacy issues of patients while still providing a “long overdue transparency” of asbestos trust funds.
Jason Samuels, Flake’s spokesman, recently told Arizona Business Daily that Flake supports the FACT Act because even though these asbestos trusts were created to compensate injured victims, the lack of transparency and oversight has resulted in a system where claimants can file inconsistent claims among the numerous trusts or against trusts and solvent companies in the tort system.
“Unfortunately, soon after its creation, fraud and misrepresentation began to surround the asbestos trust system,” Samuels said. “This lack of transparency allows for fraud and misrepresentation, which threatens the ability of future claimants to receive full compensation for their injuries.”
During the hearing on Feb. 4, Flake reinforced the importance of the FACT Act in his opening remarks.
“The FACT Act is a common-sense transparency law that will discourage fraud and abuse in the asbestos compensation system while protecting the sensitive information of claimants by shielding their medical records and their full Social Security numbers from disclosure.” Flake said.
Despite the bill’s good intentions, those who oppose the FACT Act argued in the hearing that there is not enough privacy protection for claimants, and the possible disclosure of their information could lead to identity theft and other issues. Flake explained that privacy was the highest priority.
“Operating under the experienced supervision of the bankruptcy courts, bankruptcy judges will ensure that FACT Act disclosures comply with the privacy provisions and protections that already exist in the bankruptcy code.” Flake said.
Flake further explained that trusts were established to ensure that those who suffer from asbestos exposure would have the chance to be compensated by the companies who were responsible for the exposure. Without transparency, many who sincerely need the support could be cheated out of it because of those manipulating the system.
“Congress must act now to increase transparency and combat fraud within the asbestos-settlement system if future victims of asbestos-related injuries are to be protected,” Flake said.
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