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Uncle Warren's not so warm & fuzzy side part 1

VGerect

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Beer
It's no wonder that NJA will not accurately report all their sell-off's when they are deliberately withholding insurance payments from cancer victims.
So much for corporate ethics...

Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries deny, delay asbestos, hazard claims, suits, insiders allege


  • By: MARK GREENBLATT, Scripps News

For months, mysterious white flakes and construction dust fell on Nancy Lopez's desk in the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City, Mo.
No question the debris was worse after renovation crews worked the weekend. But really, the mess was getting out of hand. On that Monday in 1983, Lopez grabbed a rag and started dusting.


The impeccably dressed young administrative assistant finished tidying her office and set to work. Unknowingly, she had brushed off her desk, into the air and into her lungs deadly asbestos fibers.


Those tiny fibers stayed with Lopez for decades, and, in 2009, at age 54, she learned she was dying from mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer. She sued the construction company and the county for negligence and punitive damages.


Lopez didn't realize her suit would eventually pit her against the empire built by acclaimed investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. of Omaha, Neb., has become one of the most powerful forces in asbestos and pollution litigation in the world.
Berkshire's reach has grown so vast that if you or a loved one files an asbestos- or pollution-related lawsuit in America, like Lopez, you're likely to encounter a Berkshire subsidiary.


Scripps interviewed more than 20 sources -- some confidential -- reviewed dozens of lawsuits and spoke with former insiders, who all allege the Berkshire-owned companies that handle its asbestos and pollution policies -- National Indemnity Co. and Resolute Management Inc. -- wrongfully delay or deny compensation to cancer victims and others to boost Berkshire?s profits. In multiple cases, courts and arbitrators have ruled that the Berkshire subsidiaries' tactics have been in "bad faith" or intentional.
Through 25 known deals, insurers like American Insurance Group, CNA Financial Corp. and Lloyd's of London have paid Berkshire to assume their risk for tens of billions of dollars in future asbestos and pollution claims.
"I do believe we have the largest single exposure to asbestos and pollution claims of any insurer today," Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Division President Ajit Jain told Scripps via email. He and Warren Buffett declined repeated requests for interviews.


Until Berkshire has to pay those claims, it can invest and potentially profit from the money. And it gets to decide when claims get paid.


Lopez attorney Louis Accurso said the number of policies Berkshire's subsidiaries control could create a dangerous amount of influence over payouts to victims like his client.


"Whenever there is a concentration of power like that you have enormous potential for abuse," Accurso said.


Asbestos defendants often drag out court proceedings, Accurso said -- a strategy he called "delay, deny until they die." Juries, for their part, often award more money to sympathetic victims they can actually see on the stand.


Nancy Lopez died before insurers controlled by Resolute "made a single offer," Accurso said. Like many mesothelioma victims, Lopez succumbed just 18 months after her diagnosis.

"Of all the cases in my career, what happened and how that played out ... gave me the most anger I can ever remember," said Accurso, who also delivered Lopez's eulogy.
 
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