BASF SE, the world’s biggest chemical maker, and a law firm agreed to pay a combined $72.5 million to resolve claims they hid evidence that certain talc products contained asbestos in an effort to scuttle thousands of lawsuits.
Executives of BASF, along with lawyers from the New York-based Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, agreed to the joint settlement, without saying how much each would pay, according to a filing Thursday in federal court in New Jersey. Including legal fees and other costs, the total value of the settlement is almost $100 million, the filings say.
BASF unit Engelhard Corp. owned a talc mine in Vermont that produced the mineral for use in industrial settings and in consumer products such as wallboard and balloons used for kids’ parties. It later changed its name to BASF Catalysts LLC. BASF acquired Engelhard for $5 billion in 2006.
The settlement resolves claims that credibly alleged actions by Engelhard and its law firm, [ Cahill Gordon & Reindel, ] amounted to a “systematic fraud” designed to “thwart the judicial process,” a federal appeals court said in 2014. That court resurrected the case after a judge threw it out.
The allegations involve Engelhard’s conduct prior to the BASF acquisition and “relate to talc sold from 1967 to 1983,” Maureen Paukert, a spokeswoman for BASF, said in an email. “The talc at issue in the lawsuit was primarily used in industrial applications, such as auto body filler, and generally not used in any cosmetic or personal care products such as baby powder.”
Julie Cohen, a [ Cahill Gordon & Reindel ] spokeswoman, said Friday the allegations about the law firm’s mishandling of Engelhard’s asbestos defense reach back to the 1980s. “This matter relates to a representation that was undertaken more than 35 years ago, and we are pleased to have resolved it amicably,” Cohen said in an emailed statement.
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