W.R. Grace, Former Executives Acquitted

Columbia-based W.R. Grace & Co. and three former executives were acquitted today on charges that they knowingly let residents of Libby, Mont., be exposed to asbestos from a mine there.

Shares of the company rose more than 30 percent on the news.

The trial began in February, and the jury received the case. Charges against two additional former executives were dropped during the trial.

Grace filed for bankruptcy in 2001 after being sued by people who said they were sicked by exposure to asbestos, a fire-retardant material that can cause diseases. The trial was over a mine in Libby, Mont., about 128 miles northwest of Missoula, that Grace bought in 1963 and closed in 1990.

The company has filed plans to emerge from bankruptcy protection later this year, but the potential of up to $280 million in fines and restitution if it had been convicted could have complicated that exit.

The government had said Libby residents die from asbestosis, an asbestos-related disease, at 40 to 80 times the normal rate.

By Terri Rupar  |  May 8, 2009; 2:51 PM ET  | Category:  Manufacturing , WR Grace
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