Issue Date: March 2, 2009
Grace Goes On Trial In Montana
W.R. Grace and five of its former executives went on trial last week in federal court in Montana for knowingly exposing residents of Libby, Mont., to asbestos and concealing the danger. The firm operated a mine in the area between 1963 and 1990 that processed vermiculite, a mineral used as a fireproofing agent and soil conditioner. The vermiculite was contaminated with asbestos. In 2005, when the indictment was handed down, the Department of Justice said 1,200 residents of the area suffered from asbestosis, a progressive breathing disorder. Grace could be fined twice the $140 million in profits it made in the mining operations or twice the losses suffered by victims. Executives could face long prison terms. For years, Grace has denied the charges. In 2008, it agreed to pay $250 million to reimburse the federal government for investigation and cleanup costs in the Montana town.
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