Financials (10-K): Part I – Item 3. Legal Proceedings


Item 3. Legal Proceedings

We are subject to a variety of environmental and pollution control laws and regulations in all jurisdictions in which we operate. We expense or capitalize, as appropriate, expenditures for ongoing compliance with environmental regulations that relate to current operations. We expense costs related to an existing condition caused by past operations that do not contribute to current or future revenue generation. We record liabilities when environmental assessments indicate that remedial efforts are probable and the costs can be reasonably estimated. Estimates of the liability are based upon currently available facts, existing technology, and presently enacted laws and regulations taking into consideration the likely effects of inflation and other societal and economic factors. We consider all available evidence including prior experience in remediation of contaminated sites, other companies’ cleanup experiences and data released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency or other organizations. These estimated liabilities are subject to revision in future periods based on actual costs or new information. Where future cash flows are fixed or reliably determinable, we have discounted the liabilities. All other environmental liabilities are recorded at their undiscounted amounts. We evaluate recoveries separately from the liability and, when they are assured, recoveries are recorded and reported separately from the associated liability in our consolidated financial statements.

As of December 31, 2009, we have the obligation to remediate or contribute towards the remediation of certain sites, including two existing Superfund sites. At December 31, 2009, our estimated share of environmental remediation costs at these sites was approximately $16 million, on a discounted basis. The undiscounted valueof the estimated remediation costs was $23 million. For those locations in which the liability was discounted, the weighted average discount rate used was 3.6 percent. Based on information known to us, we have established reserves that we believe are adequate for these costs. Although we believe these estimates of remediation costs are reasonable and are based on the latest available information, the costs are estimates and are subject to revision as more information becomes available about the extent of remediation required. At some sites, we expect that other parties will contribute towards the remediation costs. In addition, certain environmental statutes provide that our liability could be joint and several, meaning that we could be required to pay in excess of our share of remediation costs. Our understanding of the financial strength of other potentially responsible parties at these sites has been considered, where appropriate, in our determination of our estimated liability.

The $16 million noted above includes $5 million of estimated environmental remediation costs that resulted from the bankruptcy of Mark IV Industries in 2009. Prior to our 1996 acquisition of The Pullman Company, Pullman had sold certain assets to Mark IV. As partial consideration for the purchase of these assets, Mark IV agreed to assume Pullman’s and its subsidiaries’ historical obligations to contribute to the environmental remediation of certain sites. Mark IV has filed a petition for insolvency under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code and notified Pullman that it no longer intends to continue to contribute toward the remediation of those sites. We are conducting a thorough analysis and review of these matters and it is possible that our estimate may change as additional information becomes available to us.

We do not believe that any potential costs associated with our current status as a potentially responsible party in the Superfund sites, or as a liable party at the other locations referenced herein, will be material to our consolidated results of operations, financial position or cash flows.

We also from time to time are involved in legal proceedings, claims or investigations that are incidental to the conduct of our business. Some of these proceedings allege damages against us relating to environmental liabilities (including toxic tort, property damage and remediation), intellectual property matters (including patent, trademark and copyright infringement, and licensing disputes), personal injury claims (including injuries due to product failure, design or warning issues, and other product liability related matters), taxes, employment matters, and commercial or contractual disputes, sometimes related to acquisitions or divestitures. For example, one of our Argentine subsidiaries is currently defending against a criminal complaint alleging the failure to comply with laws requiring the proceeds of export transactions to be collected, reported and/or converted to local currency within specified time periods. As another example, we have recently become subject to an audit in 11 states of our practices with respect to the payment of unclaimed property to those states. We have practices in place designed to ensure that we pay unclaimed property as required. We are in the early stages of this audit, which could cover over 20 years. We vigorously defend ourselves against all of these claims. In future periods, we could be subject to cash costs or non-cash charges to earnings if any of these matters is resolved on unfavorable terms. However, although the ultimate outcome of any legal matter cannot be predicted with certainty, based on current information, including our assessment of the merits of the particular claim, we do not expect that these legal proceedings or claims will have any material adverse impact on our future consolidated financial position, results of operations or cash flows.

In addition, we are subject to a number of lawsuits initiated by claimants alleging health problems as a result of exposure to asbestos. In the early 2000’s we were named in nearly 20,000 complaints, most of which were filed in Mississippi state court and the vast majority of which made no allegations of exposure to asbestos from our product categories. Most of these claims have been dismissed and our current docket of active and inactive cases is less than 500 cases nationwide. A small number of claims have been asserted by railroad workers alleging exposure to asbestos products in railroad cars manufactured by The Pullman Company, one of our subsidiaries. The balance of the claims is related to alleged exposure to asbestos in our automotive emission control products. Only a small percentage of the claimants allege that they were automobile mechanics and a significant number appear to involve workers in other industries or otherwise do not include sufficient information to determine whether there is any basis for a claim against us. We believe, based on scientific and other evidence, it is unlikely that mechanics were exposed to asbestos by our former muffler products and that, in any event, they would not be at increased risk of asbestos-related disease based on their work with these products. Further, many of these cases involve numerous defendants, with the number of each in some cases exceeding 100 defendants from a variety of industries. Additionally, the plaintiffs either do not specify any, or specify the jurisdictional minimum, dollar amount for damages. As major asbestos manufacturers continue to go out of business or file for bankruptcy, we may experience an increased number of these claims. We vigorously defend ourselves against these claims as part of our ordinary course of business. In future periods, we could be subject to cash costs or non-cash charges to earnings if any of these matters is resolved unfavorably to us. To date, with respect to claims that have proceeded sufficiently through the judicial process, we have regularly achieved favorable resolution. Accordingly, we presently believe that these asbestos-related claims will not have a material adverse impact on our future consolidated financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.