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Court Rules James Hardie Misled Asbestos Victims

TANALEE SMITH

SYDNEY (AP) ¿ Ten former officials of building materials giant James Hardie Industries NV misled asbestos victims into believing the company had set aside enough funds for compensation, an Australian civil court ruled Thursday.

Justice Ian Gzell of the New South Wales state Supreme Court said the ten had breached their duties as directors and executives when they announced in February 2001 a fund that would provide certainty of compensation for those sickened by the company's asbestos products.

Two years later, it was found the fund had a shortfall of more than 1 billion Australian dollars ($710 million).

Gzell said the company's announcement "was expressed in too emphatic terms" and criticized the board members for failing to correct the misleading information or inform the Australian Stock Exchange.

No ruling has yet been made on penalties.

The civil case was filed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. It is seeking maximum fines of $200,000 Australian dollars ($141,670) against the 10 former James Hardie officials, and disqualification from managing a company.

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