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Contingencies
6 Months Ended
Jun. 30, 2011
Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]  
Contingencies

15. Contingencies

The Company and its subsidiaries are involved in a number of legal proceedings concerning matters arising in connection with the conduct of their respective business activities and are periodically subject to governmental examinations (including by regulatory authorities), information gathering requests, subpoenas, inquiries and investigations (collectively, “governmental examinations”). As of June 30, 2011, the Company and various of its subsidiaries were named as a defendant or were otherwise involved in numerous legal proceedings and governmental examinations in various jurisdictions, both in and outside the United States. The Company discloses or refers to certain of its more significant legal proceedings and governmental examinations under Item 1. Legal Proceedings in Part II. Other Information (Legal Proceedings).

 

The Company has recorded liabilities for certain of its outstanding legal proceedings and governmental examinations. A liability is accrued when it is both (a) probable that a loss with respect to the legal proceeding has occurred and (b) the amount of loss can be reasonably estimated although, as discussed below, there may be an exposure to loss in excess of the accrued liability. The Company evaluates, on a quarterly basis, developments in legal proceedings and governmental examinations that could cause an increase or decrease in the amount of the liability that has been previously accrued.

 

The Company's legal proceedings range from cases brought by a single plaintiff to class actions with hundreds of thousands of putative class members. These legal proceedings, as well as governmental examinations, involve various lines of business of the Company and a variety of claims (including, but not limited to, common law tort, contract, antitrust and consumer protection claims), some of which present novel factual allegations and/or unique legal theories. While some matters pending against the Company specify the damages claimed by the plaintiff, many seek a not-yet-quantified amount of damages or are at very early stages of the legal process. Even when the amount of damages claimed against the Company are stated, the claimed amount may be exaggerated and/or unsupported. As a result, some matters have not yet progressed sufficiently through discovery and/or development of important factual information and legal issues to enable the Company to estimate a range of possible loss.

 

Other matters have progressed sufficiently through discovery and/or development of important factual information and legal issues such that the Company is able to estimate a range of possible loss. Accordingly, for those legal proceedings and governmental examination disclosed or referred to in Legal Proceedings as to which a loss is reasonably possible in future periods, whether in excess of a related accrued liability or where there is no accrued liability, and for which the Company is able to estimate a range of possible loss, the current estimated range is zero to $520 million in excess of the accrued liability (if any) related to those matters. This aggregate range represents management's estimate of possible loss with respect to these matters and is based on currently available information. This estimated range of possible loss does not represent the Company's maximum loss exposure. The legal proceedings and governmental examinations underlying the estimated range will change from time to time and actual results may vary significantly from the current estimate.

 

Based on its current knowledge, and taking into consideration its litigation-related liabilities, the Company believes it is not a party to, nor are any of its properties the subject of, any pending legal proceeding or governmental examination that would have a material adverse effect on the Company's consolidated financial condition or liquidity. However, in light of the uncertainties involved in such matters, the ultimate outcome of a particular matter could be material to the Company's operating results for a particular period depending on, among other factors, the size of the loss or liability imposed and the level of the Company's income for that period.