The suits against IBM Corp involve more than 200 former and current employees who blame exposure to chemicals in chip and hard drive plants for giving them cancer and their children birth defects. The cases have raised fears of a broader liability for the electronics industry.
While declining to give his views on the validity of the cases against IBM, Mr Barrett said such suits showed the risks to business from a lawsuit-hungry US society. From a general standpoint, its just the litigious nature of the US class action lawsuits, and the plaintiffs bar go after everybody, he said. Theyre interested in not wealth creation but wealth redistribution. Mr Barrett said he did not believe Intel, the worlds largest chip maker, was a party to any litigation similar to the IBM cases. Were watching it to see what happens, he said. Right now its an issue between IBM and their former employees.
As electronics production increasingly moves to countries with regulations on worker health weaker than in the US, Mr Barrett said investment by big US chip makers would ease the problem of unsafe working conditions. We export the toughest environmental standards wherever we go around the world, he said after a press conference with New York governor George Pataki on state support for the chip industry.