Supreme Court nominee Stephen Breyer had a financial interest in the outcome of some toxic waste cases while ruling on similar cases as a federal appeals court judge, New York Newsday reported Friday.
According to his financial disclosure statements, Breyer had between $250,000 and $500,000 invested in the Lloyd's of London insurance company in the 1980s.Lloyd's is a group of syndicates, with investors putting up cash and pledging assets to cover any potential losses. Lloyd's investors are personally liable for all claims; profits are made when premiums collected for the syndicate exceed claims against it.
The documents do not reveal which Lloyd's syndicates Breyer invested in. But Newsday said it obtained internal Lloyd's documents indicating that one of Breyer's investments in 1985 was a syndicate called Merrett 418, whose liabilities for American toxic waste and asbestos claims were so great for that year that the group is unable to close its books nine years after it stopped operating.
The judge has written a book critical of the Environmental Protection Agency for being overzealous in trying to eliminate what he says were marginal risks in some cases. The so-called Superfund law, passed in 1980, requires polluters to pay for cleaning up hazardous waste sites across the country.
Breyer, who was nominated to the court by President Clinton, is to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee next month to begin his confirmation hearings.
Breyer has ruled on liability suits against U.S. polluters as a federal appeals court judge in Boston for the past 13 years.
In two Superfund cases, Breyer ruled against the government and in favor of the defendants.
Breyer's office referred Newsday's questions about the Lloyd's investment to the White House, where counsel Lloyd Cutler said "there was no case to Judge Breyer's knowledge where his syndicate or Lloyd's itself had an interest in the particular case he was deciding."
Cutler said that without a direct involvement with the parties to a case, a judge has no obligation to remove himself from the case.
But Cutler said Breyer did remove himself from an asbestos case "once it became generally clear that Lloyd's had some risk."