Thursday, November 20, 2014

WR Grace Exits Bankruptcy After 13 Years, Was it Worth the Wait? You Decide

After ducking asbestos claims for 13 years, W.R. Grace in February of this year finally emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  W.R. Grace was one of the worst polluters on Earth. At the time they filed, they were facing over 100,000 personal injury and death cases, primarily stemming from the use of fireproofing and plaster products.  W.R. Grace gained notoriety as the company which contaminated the tiny mountain town of Libby, Montana with tremolite asbestos from the mining of asbestos laced vermiculite.

At the time they filed, in 2001, WRG stock was around $1.50 a share. When they emerged from bankruptcy protection 13 years later, the stock was selling at $92 a share. It pays to duck responsibility? You decide.

Part of its court-approved bankruptcy reorganization plan was the establishment of two trusts to pay personal injury claimants and property owners.  The trusts are funded by more than $4 billion in cash, stock warrants, insurance proceeds and other sources.

This August, the trust began accepting Proof of Claim forms. According to their Trust Distribution Procedures, (basically their instruction manual) the Scheduled Average Value for a claimant diagnosed with mesothelioma is $180,000. The value for asbestos-related lung cancer is $42,000. However, the actual payment percentage is 26% of the Scheduled Value.  

A claimant is free to seek a value greater than the Scheduled Value by requesting the Trust perform an Individual Review of the claim. However, this does not guarantee a greater value or even an equal value as the Scheduled Value. The Maximum Value for this type of review for a mesothelioma claim is $450,000 before applying the liquidated payment percentage of 26%. For an asbestos-related lung cancer, the Maximum Value of an Individual Review claim is $95,000

To qualify for payment, a claimant must provide credible medical and exposure evidence as defined in the instruction manual (TDP).

The claims are paid on an impartial first-in-first-out basis.

Now, if a claimant was unfortunate enough to have filed a claim prior to April 2, 2001 against WRG as a part of a lawsuit but was never paid, they would have to follow the conditions outlined in the TDP, but the claim would be reviewed sooner.

The WRG bankruptcy is the longest in a long line of bankruptcies filed by the asbestos superpowers.  It's a sordid tale, and a long and desolate trail, but for those with the stomach, and the patience, here's a timeline. As they say, justice delayed is justice denied. What do you think? Will MBA students be studying the WRG bankruptcy as an example of what not to do in corporate america? Or will they be looking at it as a brilliant business move that saved the company billions and enriched thousands of shareholders?

You decide.

In April of 2001, WRG is named in more than 325,000 asbestos-related personal injury lawsuits.  They soon announce they have filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In May of 2001, WRG gets approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to receive a $250 million loan from Bank of America, to help support operations.

In February of 2003, WRG asks the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to allow an extension of its $250 million loan agreement with Bank of America for another three years.

In October of 2004, WRG makes a request to delay filing a reorganization plan, hoping to continue negotiations with creditors.  WRG also is notified they are a target of a federal grand jury investigation, facing indictments on several charges including interfering with an EPA investigation, violating the Clean Air Act and placing asbestos materials in schools and local residences and conspiring to conceal the resulting health problems.

In November of 2004, WRG files a reorganization plan with a Delaware court which is soon approved.

In January of 2005, WRG files an amended bankruptcy protection plan with a Delaware court.

In September of 2005, WRG opens a new China headquarters in Shanghai, which consolidates four other offices in the country.

In December of 2005, WRG announces they have spent $20 million in the year 2005 on legal defense costs.

In February of 2006, WRG announces it will open a new manufacturing facility, costing $20 million, in Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee.

In April of 2008, WRG reaches a tentative settlement on all current and future asbestos-related claims, worth $2 billion.

In January of 2011, WRG latest bankruptcy reorganization plan is approved by Judge Judith Fitzgerald in Wilmington, Delaware.

In January of 2012, WRG’s bankruptcy reorganization plan is approved by a judge of the U.S. District Court.

In November of 2012, WRG announces it will pay cash, not stock, to settle a larger share of the asbestos-related injury claims against the company.

In December of 2012, WRG announces its total payments to date with its bank lenders, including interest is at $1.1 billion dollars.

In February of 2014, WRG emerges from bankruptcy protection.

The Wall Street Journal provided an excellent WRG trip summary.

WSJ highlights: 
  • The original bankruptcy judge, Alfred Wolin, was ordered off the case under fire from distressed-debt investors who fretted he was too friendly with the asbestos plaintiff’s camp.
  • A criminal indictment of the company and some executives, accused of knowingly allowing dangerous asbestos contamination to spread. WRG and its executives beat the charges, after a trial before a jury in Montana.
  • Some dark comedy, such as the asbestos-disposal solution WRG pursued for years in a Minneapolis neighborhood: Advertise asbestos-contaminated material as “free crushed rock” and invite the neighbors to come haul it away to decorate their lawns, firm up their driveways. WRG cleaned up the contamination.
Was it all worth it?  Earlier this month, WRG showed off its new 90,000-square-foot global headquarters building along with several laboratories at its 160-acre Columbia, Maryland campus.

You decide.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Promising Clinical Data on VS-6063 for the Treatment of Mesothelioma Presented at the 2014 iMig Conference

On October 24, 2014, at the iMig (International Mesothelioma Interest Group) Conference, Professor Raphael Bueno, M.D., Chief of Thoracic Surgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), presented preliminary data on Verastem, Inc.’s clinical ‘Window of Opportunity’ study evaluating the biomarker response to VS-6063 (defactinib), an oral small molecule that targets cancer stem cells through the inhibition of focal adhesion kinase (FAK) in pleural mesothelioma patients (mpm) eligible for resection surgery.

The drug was administered to 10 patients twice a day, for 12 days, with biopsies performed before and after the administration of the drug. Tumor size was measured using CT/PET scans before and after the 12-day administration of VS-6063.

VS-6063 reduced FAK activity by an average of 70%, and in 5 of the 7 patients reduced the presence of cancer stem cell markers in the post-treatment biopsies. None of the 10 patients saw any tumor growth in the 12 days, and 2 of the 10 patients experienced partial tumor shrinkage of -30%, and -49%.

“To follow up on these encouraging results, the protocol is being amended to explore more extended dosing in 10-15 additional patients with mesothelioma prior to surgery,” said Dr. Bueno. “The window of opportunity before elective surgery provides a novel platform for the clinical evaluation of promising new agents for the treatment of this devastating disease.”

In addition to the ‘Window of Opportunity’ study, Verastem is conducting a registration-directed COMMAND (Control Of Mesothelioma with MAinteNance Defactinib) study as a disease maintenance program following successful treatment with Alimta and cisplatin in patients with mpm.

Verastem also presented preclinical data at the iMig Conference which demonstrated the ability of VS-6063 and the combination of VS-6063 and VS-5584 to target and kill cancer stem cells in models of mesothelioma.

The administration of drugs prior to surgery to suppress tumor growth is not new. Many patients undergo chemotherapy before surgery in an effort to reduce tumor size and minimize complications. The possibility of inhibiting the disease’s production of a particular biomarker linked directly to tumor growth is very promising.

Verastem’s approach to developing targeted therapies for mesothelioma has the potential to not only improve treatment of this aggressive and deadly disease, but to offer new hope to patients struggling with their disease.


For additional information on Verastem’s ongoing research into treatment therapies for mesothelioma please visit: http://www.verastem.com/research/presentations.aspx

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Over $95,000 raised for Mesothelioma Research--Pacific Meso Center’s 3rd Annual Walk/Hike for Meso a Tremendous Success!

Team W&C members Jim Parnel,
Juniel Worthington, John and Suzanne
Caron, with PMC Exec. Dir. Clare
Cameron and Volunteers
Pacific Meso Center’s 3rd Annual Walk/Hike for Meso took place on Sunday, October 12th at the scenic Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills. With the picture-perfect weather and impeccable organization by the event’s many volunteers, energy and anticipation were high.

The event was attended by several mesothelioma patients, as well as over 250 participants, many of whom are friends and family of persons whose lives have been rocked by mesothelioma. Each kilometer was marked with signs sponsored by families in memory of the loved ones affected by the disease. There were also mesothelioma and asbestos facts scattered throughout the course, and a quiz at the completion of the walk with prizes for the top scores. 

After finishing the challenging hike along five kilometers of dirt paths in the hills above the ranch, hikers were greeted with cheers, an assortment of cold beverages and the hot R&B sounds of Cherry & The Bulldogs. Hikers were then rewarded with a delicious lunch from Ottavio’s Italian Restaurant, donated by owner Noella Belvedere who lost her husband Ottavio to mesothelioma in 2007. Noella and her family are no strangers to the cause, having raised more than $120,000 for mesothelioma research over the years.

  

Along the Dusty Trail!

When the dust cleared, the event raised $95,000 for much-needed research into lung-sparing treatments for mesothelioma. This amount exceeded PMC’s goal for the event for the third year in a row, and donations are still coming in! Friends and family of Gene Lepore brought home the honors for top fundraising team with their team, Team Gigi, bringing in $8,015. They were followed by last year’s top fundraising team, Irish Stampede, with $6,952, and Team Chuck Jarvis repeated last year’s third-place performance with $6,909.


PMC Scientific Advisor
Dr. Robert Cameron
Thanking the Hikers for 
Supporting Meso Research
The Worthington & Caron law firm is proud to have been the lead sponsor of the PMC Hike for Meso for the third year in a row. “This is a unique event which brings together families and friends of persons afflicted with mesothelioma to share camaraderie and sense of mission in a beautiful outdoor setting,” commented Worthington & Caron partner John Caron. “The event gets bigger and bigger every year, and has already become a tradition for many of the families who participate.”

PMC’s Annual Walk/Hike for Meso is held in loving memory of Ottavio Belvedere, Bruce Bell, Mark Ganoe, Charles Jarvis, Sr., John Johnson, Gene Lepore, Gerry McCarthy, Kevin McCarthy, Rosa Gonzalez, Robert Vitale and to all those who have lost their battle with mesothelioma.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Zumwalt Mesothelioma Treatment Program - The Best Medical Plan No Veterans Know About

Secretary McDonald  - Please Notify Veterans There's No Waiting List at the Zumwalt Mesothelioma Treatment Program in Los Angeles
Zumwalt Meso
Treatment Program 
The best medical plan 
no veterans know about

San Pedro, CA -- It's upsetting to read the allegations in the news about secret wait lists, cover-ups, shabby treatment, premature deaths and a culture of apathy permeating the Department of Veterans Affairs.
What's equally upsetting is letting veterans suffer and die with either no or minimal treatment even though a qualified medical team is standing by and eager to treat them.
For months now, patients and advocates (including Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.)) have been entreating former Secretary Shinseki and Under Secretary Petzel to simply notify patients and doctorswithin the vast VA network of the world-class treatment available to veterans suffering from mesothelioma as a result of service-related asbestos exposure. Now with the recent confirmation of VA Secretary Robert McDonald, veterans are optimistic of the changes being proposed but their trust has been undeniably compromised.
About a year ago, the VA Medical Center in West Los Angeles, California approved (but did not budget) the Admiral Zumwalt Mesothelioma Treatment Program. The program is headed up by Dr. Robert Cameron, a well-respected thoracic surgeon who has dedicated his life to the rational treatment of pleural mesothelioma, a cancer which disproportionately impacts US service veterans.
Dr. Cameron and his crew are eager to treat veterans. Unfortunately, despite multiple requests and promises, the VA has yet to perform the simple administrative task of updating its website and other social media about the existence of the program--notices that would alert veterans suffering from mesothelioma to the high quality treatment which is available to them. Neither the VA nor West LA VA websites even mention the program.
The mesothelioma treatment team at the West LA VA Medical Center would love to have a list of veterans to treat. But there's no list, no waiting list and no effort to educate our war heroes stricken with asbestos cancer that help is available.
According to the popular literature, about 4,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. Of those, roughly a third were exposed to asbestos while serving in the Navy. It's not a stretch to surmise that at least 600 Navy veterans are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year--a diagnosis that carries a nine month life expectancy with no treatment and 11-12 months with chemotherapy only.
Mesothelioma is a rare disease and few doctors are either interested or qualified to treat it with the full arsenal of options available. It's a beautiful thing that a world-renowned surgeon like Dr. Cameron is willing to treat veterans, but it's sad that the VA has done nothing to help educate patients about his extraordinary talents.
Secretary McDonald, the request is simple: Will you please educate veterans and all caregivers within the VA system that the Zumwalt Mesothelioma Treatment Program is alive and well and eager to provide prompt, world-class treatment to veterans suffering from mesothelioma (without placing them on a long list!).
With new reports of the VA medical system's failures capturing headlines every day, what better time to finally bring attention to an area where the VA has gotten it right!
For more information, please contact Worthington & Caron (http://www.mesothel.com/) or 800-831-9399.

Monday, August 4, 2014

“The Greatest Escape” Motorcycle Rally for Meso - The Sequel

Sunday August 3 was the 2nd ever “Greatest Escape” Motorcycle Rally to raise funds for mesothelioma research conducted by the Pacific Meso Center. The Worthington & Caron law firm was proud to once again serve as the lead sponsor for this unique event. 

The rally is inspired by the classic movie, “The Great Escape” starring the “King of Cool” and mesothelioma victim Steve McQueen. While there has never been a sequel to “The Great Escape” (and hopefully never will be!), the sequel to the first-ever “Greatest Escape” Motorcycle Rally turned out to be even better than the original!!

  
Heading North on PCH

The build-up to the event was somewhat auspicious, as Los Angeles experienced an extremely rare August rainstorm (any rain in LA is rare these days—but especially in August!) which lasted overnight until about 30 minutes before start-time. But the weather didn’t keep away the dedicated and enthusiastic group of motorcyclists who turned out to support a very worthy cause and have a great ride up the coast in the process.

This year’s celebrity grand marshal was actor and motorcycle enthusiast (more accurately “fanatic”) Perry King. Perry gave an inspirational send-off speech thanking motorcyclists for being the most reliable segment of the general public when it comes to turning out to support a worthy cause. He then reminded everyone about the real reason we were all there—to raise funds for much-needed research into a cure for mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer which disproportionately affects U.S. service veterans as well as thousands of Americans from all walks of life every year.

After that, it was “kickstands up!!” With a full motorcycle escort, the likes of which is usually reserved for presidents and dignitaries, the “rolling thunder” of over 150 motorcycles of all shapes and sizes (except for Perry King’s silent, but ultra-cool, Zero E-Bike) roared through the usually clogged streets of Venice, Santa Monica and Malibu without stopping for a single traffic signal!

  
"Twisting" Through the Canyons

Riders were treated to ocean views along Pacific Coast Highway and then rugged canyon views as the ride turned up Kanan Dume road. After negotiating the hills, “twisties” and tunnels of Kanan Dume, the ride turned down Cornell road for a final approach into historic Paramount Ranch, nestled in the hills above Malibu. It was quite a sight as all the bikes wound their way through the dirt streets of the western town movie set before it was “kickstands down” around the party pavilion at the ranch.


  
 At the Ranch - John Caron (center) with Perry King (to his left) and Chuck Jarvis, Jr. (to his right)

The riders were joined by a healthy throng of supporters who drove their cars to the ranch to be part of the fun. Everyone who made the trip got to enjoy an outstanding barbeque lunch, cold beverages and the sounds of classic Johnny Cash songs provided by the “Walking Phoenixes” band who were accompanied by the “Phoenix Girls” dancers. Four proud bike owners were given awards for having the coolest bikes in their categories, as voted on by the other riders.

Attendees bid liberally on the outstanding auction and raffle items which were donated to the cause by generous supporters. The prizes included two African safaris, a Keith Urban guitar, artisanal glassworks and all sorts of motorcycle gear, with all of the proceeds going to mesothelioma research.

Grand marshal Perry King brought along his friend, motorcycling legend Dave Ekins who, along with his brother Bud Ekins, was largely responsible for the growth of motorcycle racing in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. Dave shared some little known facts about the motorcycling scenes in “The Great Escape” movie. Dave’s brother Bud did the stunt riding for Steve McQueen in the movie, including the famous scene where McQueen’s character attempts to jump the barbed-wire fence at the POW camp. DYK--it was Steve McQueen himself who added this scene to the movie as a condition for doing the movie.

Click here for to view the news story from local ABC affiliate KABC.

All in all “The Greatest Escape” Motorcycle Rally was an extremely fun event which raised much needed funds and public awareness for research into a cure for mesothelioma. Thanks to Clare Cameron and all her dedicated volunteers at the Pacific Meso Center for working so hard to make it a success. Worthington & Caron were proud to be a part of this sequel to “The Greatest Escape” and look forward to “playing a role” in many more in the future. 


  
John and Perry; John taking Perry’s E-bike for a Silent Spin

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Greatest Escape; 2nd Annual Motorcycle Ride to Benefit Victims of Mesothelioma

Proudly Presented by Worthington & Caron, P.C.

Join us and the Pacific Meso Center on a beautiful motorcycle ride along the California coast this Sunday, August 3.

After the ride, join us for a lunch, concert and additional fun at The Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, California. There will be celebrity riders including our Grand Marshall, Perry King!

Registration begins at: 8:30 AM and the Ride promptly begins at: 10:00 AM. The lunch will be provided by J Wolf Catering & Concert begins and the digging in begins at 12:30 PM

Be sure to stay and enjoy the music of The Walking Phoenixes-a Johnny Cash Tribute Band.

Click here for all the details.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

University of Pennsylvania's Mesothelioma Program Receives $8 Million Grant from NCI

The National Cancer Institute awarded an $8 million grant to the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine to study the effects of photodynamic light therapy (PDT) in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. The grant  will fund a clinical trial and additional studies looking at the effects of PDT on the patient’s immune response, the mesothelioma tumor cell , and the blood vessels surrounding the tumor.

Dr. Eli Glatstein is the principal investigator of the program. He is also the professor and vice chair of Radiation Oncology, and member of Penn’s Mesothelioma and Pleural Program. According to Dr. Glatstein,  “This trial represents a major step in understanding the combination of treatment modalities that will offer patients the best hope for survival and extended remission.”

The study expects to enroll 102 patients over four years.  Patient will be administered Photofrin, a photosensitizing agent that makes cancer cells more sensitive to dying from light therapy, 24 hours prior to surgery.

The patients will then undergo a radical pleurectomy.  The patents will then be divided into two groups: half will receive PDT intraoperatively via an intense laser inserted in the chest cavity during the surgery, along with post-operative standard chemotherapy; and half who will receive only post-operative chemotherapy. Photofrin absorbs the light from the laser and produces an active form of oxygen that can destroy residual microscopic cancer cells left behind after surgery.

“PDT has been a part of our treatment regimen along with a lung-sparing surgery for many years, but a randomized clinical trial such as this remains necessary to prove its efficacy,” says Glatstein.

PDT is known to kill cancer cells, but researchers also seek to understand the patient’s immune response, the tumor microenvironment and the blood vessels in and surrounding the tumor in three additional studies funded under the grant.

“This trial will help us understand how PDT works in the body and what we may be able to do in the future to improve the body’s response to the therapy,” says Glatstein.

Click here for more.