Halliburton Co. agreed to pay as much as $4.2 billion in cash and stock to settle asbestos claims against several current and former units and to wipe out future asbestos liability, the plaintiffs' lawyers said.
The world's second-largest oil services company will pay $2.75 billion in cash and issue $1.4 billion in stock to compensate workers and others for health problems tied to asbestos exposure, said Peter Kraus, a lawyer for asbestos claimants in the Harbison-Walker Refractories Co. bankruptcy case. Halliburton's Dresser Industries unit once owned Harbison.
The accord allows Halliburton to avoid bankruptcy and to create a trust to pay asbestos liability as part of Harbison's Chapter 11 case, Kraus said. Asbestos suits have forced 20 companies into bankruptcy since January 2000, including Owens Corning, and may cost U.S. businesses more than $200 billion, the Towers Perrin consulting firm estimates.
"They are buying peace from asbestos litigation for all time," said Kraus, who participated in settlement negotiations with Halliburton officials last week and was briefed on the latest version of the accord earlier today. A hearing on the settlement that was scheduled to continue today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Pittsburgh was postponed until Friday.
In a related case, lawyers for Honeywell International Inc. appeared in the same courtroom today and told a judge that the company is close to settling more than 100,000 asbestos claims against a former unit, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs.
Halliburton said in a statement that the postponement was requested by asbestos claimants who are creditors in the Harbison bankruptcy case. Company spokeswoman Wendy Hall declined to comment further.