How did Elizabeth Warren earn $44,000 from Travelers Insurance?

Yes folks, it’s another one in my regular series of ‘bash Elizabeth Warren’ posts.

But this one is dead serious.

So, how did Warren earn that $44,000 consulting paycheck from Travelers Insurance?

By helping Travelers Insurance limit its liability exposure from asbestos lawsuits.

As a legal expert on the subject of bankruptcy, she was hired as a consultant to work on a 2008 Supreme Court appeal involving a 1986 court order that was in turn related to the bankruptcy of the Johns-Manville corporation, which was an insured of Travelers.

The 1982 bankruptcy of Johns-Manville was a landmark asbestos tort case, as it helped define the precedent of a defendant company setting up an “asbestos trust fund” to pay victims of asbestosis and mesothelioma, followed by Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization to ensure that the company stayed in business and was able to continue making contributions to the trust fund.

The 1986 court order that was at the heart of the Supreme Court appeal on which Warren worked blocked attempts by victims to sue Travelers Insurance after the establishment of Johns-Manville’s asbestos trust fund.  Travelers Insurance had already paid out over $100,000,000 to claimants before the trust fund had been established.  The order prevented “any person from commencing any actions based upon, arising out of, or related to insurance policies that Travelers issued to Manville.”  The legality of this court order came under question via Federal appellate court (and ended up in front of the SCOTUS) after several Johns-Manville plaintiffs attempted to avoid the lengthy trust fund claims process by filing ‘direct action‘ lawsuits against Travelers Insurance in the early 2000’s.

In Warren’s defense, trust fund settlements and the bankruptcy process were crucial in preserving the financial assets of asbestos defendants.  To the extent that the fallibility of our legal process allows, the system ‘worked’ in that it prevented companies from simply liquidating their assets and vanishing without compensating the victims of their negligence.  And enforcing bankruptcy agreements is an important part of this system:

Supporting the finality of bankruptcy court rulings is hardly an anti-asbestos victim stance. If insurers like Traveller’s don’t think that the deal they strike as part of a bankruptcy case will be honored, they won’t cut deals.  And the result will be that asbestos victims will face years of litigation and maybe no better outcome.

… Warren’s involvement in the appeal is not even evidence that she’s anti-asbestos victims.  I vividly remember as a student in Professor Warren’s bankruptcy class the great personal sympathy she has for asbestos victims when discussing the problems of dealing with mass torts in the bankruptcy system. She took great pains to make sure the class understood what a particularly terrible death mesothelioma causes.

But I have to wonder, how politically toxic would something like this be for a Republican?  Mass tort lawsuits are complex and the settlement process can take years.  Asbestos victims don’t have the luxury of waiting.  Since mesothelioma is generally detected only after it has reached stage III or stage IV it is almost 100% fatal, and once it begins to spread out of the pleural cavity the life expectancy of a mesothelioma sufferer is usually less than four months.

Hundreds of thousands of workers were exposed to asbestos in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Since asbestosis can take as long as 25 years to develop, new diagnoses were still turning up consistently in the early 2000’s.  Many of those victims could not endure a mass tort lawsuit; neither could they afford to wait at the end of a long line of claimants for a settlement from an asbestos trust fund.  Plaintiff’s lawyers argued that direct action lawsuits were the last best hope of these victims for obtaining a fair settlement before they succumbed to their illness.

Democrats love victims and sob stories.  A Republican senatorial candidate who had helped design an argument to shut down direct action lawsuits by terminally ill victims of reckless negligence would surely be portrayed in campaign ads and news reporting as a heartless bastard who had sold out to Big Business.

Does Elizabeth Warren deserve to be treated any differently?


The featured image for this post is asbestos victim Joe Darabant, who worked for Johns-Manville and died in 1990.

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  • marraccobama

    But Republicans want tort reform. Isn’t that what she did??

    • GarandFan

      Yeah, but ‘tort reform’ is a legislative process, not a judicial one.

  • jim_m

    Wow, another lefty claiming to be for the little guy whilst taking big payouts from evil corporations to victimize said little guy.  I’m shocked!  SHOCKED! that there exists such hypocrisy on the left.

    Oh, who am I kidding? of course she’s a hypocrite.  It is part and parcel with being a leftist.  Claim to be for one thing while making money doing the opposite.

    • herddog505

      I’m of two minds on this.  On the one hand, I’m a big believer in the rule of law and the responsibility of lawyers to it.  The law is not about being “fair” or “nice” or “doing good”: it is about doing things in a predictable, consistent manner.  I’ll give Warren the benefit of the doubt and assume that her PERSONAL sympathies lie with the victims, but her PROFESSIONAL responsibility lies with her client.  It is the same logic that requires a lawyer to give 100% toward arguing a case that he personally believes to be bullsh*t or defending a client that he personally believes to be guilty as hell.

      On the other hand, I absolutely agree with you: she’s a hypocrite, ranting one minute about the “99%” while the next taking fat paychecks from the “1%”.

      If Scott Brown had done this, you can bet your sweet Aunt Sally that MiniTru would be chock-a-block with outraged stories about it.

      • jim_m

        I believe in judging hypocrites by their own standards.

        Since the left would criticize anyone else for defending the rights of the corporations, I think it is fully justified to label Warren a rank hypocrite for doing so and then trying to claim to be for the working man.  Were it Scott Brown they would not accept the same defense.

        Alinsky Rules:  Make the enemy live up to their own rules.

        • All of this talk about “Alinsky” is funny.

          Of course, we all know you haven’t a clue as to what you’re talking about – but it sounds so good. “Enemy” – Your  fellow Americans are your “enemy” — nice touch.

          Wait, let me check my Alinsky manual to see if I should post this.


          Have you considered new meds?

          • jim_m


            That’s right.  I don’t know what I am talking about and you know everything about what you say.

            In fact if you knew anything about what I was saying you would have recognized that I was quoting Alinksy rules for power tactics: 

            4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”

            It was Alinsky that called everyone else the enemy.  I’m quoting your side.

          • Glad you’re as crazy as he is. It makes mocking you so much fun.

          • jim_m

            Obama taught Alinsky methods and thinking in his courses at the U of C so you are calling obama crazy?

            Go Google for images of “obama teaching” and the number one graphic is him diagramming relationships according to Alinsky’s ideas of power.

          • Brucehenry

            Classes are taught at West Point based on the teachings of Sun Tzu — does that make those instructors Confucianists?

          • jim_m

            Of course not.  However, in obama’s case he has worked with people who have advocated and espoused these ideas.  His U of C course was one of his own design.

            Stephen’s claim was that someone who referenced these ideas was crazy.  My point was that obama taught these ideas so clearly he believes that they are useful.

          • “Stephen’s claim was that someone who referenced these ideas was crazy”

            You’re a Liar. Caught again.

            I said someone  who considers their fellow Americans “the enemy” is crazy…

            JimM the Liar: “It was Alinsky that called everyone else the enemy.  I’m quoting your side”

            Me: “Glad you’re as crazy as he is. It makes mocking you so much fun.”

            And then JimM lies about it….

          • jim_m

            You called me crazy when I referenced Alinsky. Now you are trying to backtrack.

            Maybe you should go back to editing your posts to change what you said.

          • read it again. You lied.

          • jim_m

            Stevie, when everything you disagree with is called a lie it’s rather hard to take the accusation seriously anymore.

            I told you what I thought and my response was based on that interpretation. If you cannot wrap your mind around where I was coming from it isn’t a problem with me lying it is a problem with your lack of intellect.

          • learn to read

          • jim_m

            If you were misunderstood the proper response is to clarify yourself rather than just claim that everyone else is a liar.  It makes you look like a 6 year old (no offense meant to six year olds).

          • You’re an idiot – it’s just that simple. You can’t read and understand simple sentences, so you make up lies instead.

          • jim_m

            Where did I lie?  I interpreted your statement to mean that references to Alinsky’s ideas were crazy, so I pointed out that obama is a follower. 

            I also pointed out that it was Alinsky that used the term enemy to refer to other Americans.  You haven’t shown me to be lying, you have just shown that you cannot distinguish between facts and opinions so you call differing opinions lies.

            Whatever, Stephen.  You are only a small child and you have a hard time understanding other points of view.

        • jb

          : ) It really does make me chuckle every time I see some diatribe against “the Left” that mentions Alinsky – because that is the only time I’ve ever heard of him. And I’ve been rather academically far left for decades, reading Noam Chomsky etc.

          It’s about like when everyone on the right would be up in arms about something Rosie O’Donnell said, as if anyone on the Left actually listens to her either….

  • Hank_M

    Warren is the typical extremely rich democrat hypocrite suffering from liberal guilt.

    She talks about being a champion for the middle class, or as she put it one day, the hicks.
    But her career is about one thing and one thing only, money.

    If only that guilt wouldn’t rear it’s ugly head.
    For instance, when she granted an interview to NY Magazine, she insisted her 1.6 Million dollar extremely well appointed mansion in Cambridge be “off the record”.
    Makes sense. Hard for the hicks to identify with someone worth an estimated 8 million.

    And what is it with Warren, Obama and other dems suddenly being so concerned with the middle class? I thought they were obsessed with helping the poor unless, of course, they’ve finished with the poor and now seek to impoverish the middle class the same way.

    • MichaelLaprarie

      I’m sure the folks that Warren hob-nobs with as part of her high profile legal work, or her fundraising efforts, or within the Ivy League intellectual community WOULD consider a $1.6 million home to be strictly hicksville.  And when you are organizing campaign fundraisers for mega-millionaires and billionaires, an $8 million net worth probably seems like chump change.

      One of my extended family members is facing the possibility of having his executive position at a multi-million dollar company phased out by May of this year.  The chance of him getting a position at another company that pays anywhere even close to what he is making now is pretty slim.  Right now they are panicked about how they are going to live on less than $150,000 a year.  My response?  Quick, get me a violin.

      It all depends on your perspective.

      • jim_m

        You are quite correct that $1.6M is not an especially large or fancy house in the Boston area.  Just across the Charles from Warren’s home is the Back Bay, where a condo in a converted town house will run you $3-5 M.  Single family homes in the area run $7-12M. Trot down to Brookline and you can find a few homes for $10-18M and up.

        Add to that the fact that you need an annual income in excess of $525k to reach the top 1% in Boston and Warren is not in the local 1% even though her mid $400k income places her almost $100k above the 1% threshold nationally.

        So Warren looks out at her status in her insulated conclave of the uber rich and sees that she is not as uber rich as her neighbors and expects us to believe that this is reflective of her economic position in general.

        I think this is more self delusion on her part than anything else.

        • herddog505

          If I thought that Warren had an ounce of intellectual or moral integrity (the “d” behind her names makes me highly doubtful of that), I’d almost suggest that we NEED people like her in Congress.

          “You want to raise taxes on people who make $250k because they are ‘rich’???  That’s less that I make, and I’m certainly not ‘rich’!  What are you thinking???”

          • Hank_M

            I see your point herddog, but after hearing her rant about rich factory owners, I think she’s the last thing we need in congress right now. Remember this?

            “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you!
            But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe
            in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize
            everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into
            something terrific, or a great idea — God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.
            But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

          • jim_m

            The sad part is that this seems to be main stream leftist thinking.  As in my recent exchanges with jb, the left thinks that if any business sells anything or provides any service to the government and gets paid for that, then they are government subsidized (or as jb changed it: government funded).  As government subsidized entities they are fair game for he government to dictate who hey will employ and under what terms they will employ them.

            The left sees no limit to the power of government, especially with regard to controlling other people.

          • The right wants to drag our country back to the stone ages, and RINOs like Jim M, who leap to support Mitt Romney every chance they get, are at the forefront of this movement.

          • jim_m

            Wait, now I’m a RINO??? 

            LOL.  Make up your mind.  At one point you’re calling me a right winger and the next you’re calling me a RINO.  There is a distinct difference you know.

            Just more evidence of your disordered thinking.

          • jb

            There’s a couple of sad things in what you’re saying, jim_m.

            One is that you seem to somehow think that the government giving money to churches somehow isn’t public funding, because apparently church hospitals are just like Staples and medical help is just like office supplies.

            But even sadder is that, if I were to take your views as emblematic of those on the Right, you somehow think it’s wrong for the Government to assert authority *even as a customer*.

          • jim_m

            As I said before then every business that sells the government anything is government funded and by your rationale can be forced to do anything.

             A customer has the right to send their business elsewhere if they do not like the vendor.  The government is using its power to force vendors to comply against their will.  Their is a difference but you are too stupid to notice.

          • jb

            I say *you’re* too stupid to notice the important difference. And Nyah Nyah, and you’re a poopypants too.

            So if the government used it’s leverage as a customer and said, “Fine, you can’t have any of our money if you don’t do what we like” to the hospital, would you object to that?

          • herddog505

            You’re right, of course.  I would expect Warren to toe the party line and vote for higher taxes while carefully and assiduously doing what all members of Congress seem to do: NOT pay those taxes themselves while taking advantage of their positions to feather their shabby nests in a manner more rapcious than even the robber barons of the 19th century might have imagined.

            Socialism is NEVER for the socialist.

          • jb

            I really don’t understand. What do you find objectionable in that statement?

            I’m not even trying to argue. I just want to understand your point of view.

          • Hank_M

            Hi jb.

            It’s objectionable because it’s devisive, condescending and reeks of “us against them” rhetoric implying that the factory owner got ahead at the expense of everyone else.

            Really, what is this: “you built a factory out there — good for you!”??

            If anything, the factory owner should be thanked for employing those who built the factory, giving jobs to local residents who now may be able to improve their lives, paying unemployment insurance, paying federal, state and local taxes, buying goods from other businesses and really taking the risk of putting their capital to use.

            Hope this helps answer your question.

          • jb

            So you have an objection to the tone you perceive? And not anything specific that she said, apart from the tone?

            Just want to be clear on this.

          • Hank_M

            Not just the tone.

            The us-vs-them rhetoric, the attack on people who are actually creating job, paying taxes and playing by the rules.

          • jb

            But I honestly don’t see anything in that statement that attacks them.

            How does she attack them? What did she say that means that factory builders, company owners etc. are in some way intrinsically bad, wrong, or evil?

  • BlakeTrent

    Either way, the only way to fix the asbestos problem is to legislatively change the law to completely BAN asbestos.  Although it is now prohibited to mine the toxic chemical, tons of it are still imported from abroad.