The scavengers of East Alton

The Madison County Record Jun. 6, 2009, 3:46pm

The fall of the U.S. auto industry has produced plenty of losers: workers and pensioners, stockholders and bondholders, industry suppliers and the American taxpayer.

Yet some see a silver lining in the rust of General Motors and Chrysler, the once proud giants that now lie in disrepair in bankruptcy court.

Here come the scavengers: America's tort bar, led by our very own SimmonsCooper, one of the most prolific filers of asbestos lawsuits in the country.

As reported exclusively by The Record, the East Alton law firm has filed appearances in both cases, urging the court to use the automakers' dwindling assets to pay for hundreds of present and future asbestos lawsuits against both companies.

Think of that. U.S. taxpayers have already ponied up tens of billions to keep both companies alive. Tens of thousands of Americans are losing their jobs and retirement savings. Investors who previously loaned the company billions in cold, hard cash are being forced to take pennies on the dollar.

And the folks at SimmonsCooper are demanding the court force the companies to pay for these questionable lawsuits-- none of which have been proven and some that haven't even been filed.

Of course, any money used to pay SimmonsCooper & Co. would come at the expense of the aforementioned suffering employees, retirees, and small business vendors owed money for services rendered. This much is obvious: some trial lawyers cannot help themselves.

To his credit, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Gonzalez defied money-grubbing attempts in the Chrysler case, authorizing the company to sell its assets without chiseling off a few billion for the trial bar.

But GM is a bigger opportunity. The court should follow the example of Judge Gonzalez and send them away.

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