Although asbestos was used in such disparate products as building insulation and brake linings, in its raw form it came out the ground, and nobody in Australia mined and processed more of it than the James Hardie group. Therefore it came as a huge relief to former workers and their families when the company announced that it would fund an additional £568 million ($1.1 billion) in compensation.
Hardie, which now derives more than 80 percent of its income from the U.S., had set up a compensation fund in 2001, but it proved inadequate to fully pay present and future claims. Three years ago the company moved its corporate domicile from Australia to the Netherlands, which provoked a public outcry and led to an inquiry by the government of New South Wales into its operations, which was highly critical.
According to a report from the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) by reporter Matt Peacock, Hardie left a foundation to deal with the asbestos claims that proved to be seriously underfunded by some A$2 billion (U.S.$1.533 billion).
The agreement to provide further funds, negotiated with the company’s unions, will both save the foundation, and assure payments on present and future clams. It is the largest such voluntary settlement in Australian legal history.
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