Asbestos problem was a threat to Grace’s profit, former financial analyst says
Top employees at W.R. Grace knew about asbestos contamination in the Libby, Mont., mine since the late 1970s, James Richard Becker, Jr., said in court Monday morning. Becker, a former financial analyst for W.R. Grace, said the company worried it would have to change the way ore from Libby, Mont., was processed – an ordeal that would have made the business unprofitable, he said.
“W.R. Grace is a very financially run company,” Becker said. “Everything is done by the numbers. Every purchase must be justified, and it must show how it could help make money.”
A W.R. Grace employee from 1976 to 1980, Becker was a member of the Zonolite Strategic Taskforce, a group that dealt with various problems the company was facing. At each meeting, Becker took notes on what was discussed.
Looking at a copy of his meeting notes, government attorney Kris A. McLean asked Becker to read the names of people it had been sent to. One name was Jack W. Wolter, a defendant in the case.
Becker also read through his notes, which detailed what the task force had identified as W.R. Grace’s strengths and problems.
“Tremolite in vermiculite was an issue,” Becker said, adding that the group was looking into the health effects of asbestos exposure. The group also anticipated increased governmental regulations on the amount of asbestos a person could legally be exposed to.
“If the regulations increased, (W.R. Grace) would have to change the process of how vermiculite was processed, which would make the business unprofitable,” Becker said.
McLean will continue examining Becker this afternoon.
– Carly Flandro, posted 3:04 p.m.