The third season of the wildly popular show “Billions” premiered in March with a mention of an oddly arcane subject: asbestos bankruptcy trusts. The dialogue coming out of the mouth of prosecutor Chuck Rhodes, played by Paul Giamatti, becomes a little less mysterious when you look at who wrote it, however.
“Billions” co-creator and scriptwriter Brian Koppelman may have been slyly describing a side occupation of his father, veteran entertainment-industry executive Charles Koppelman.
Koppelman senior, better known for running EMI Music in the 1990s and Martha Stewart Omnimedia in the 2000s, makes a cameo appearance in the episode along with Perry Weitz, name partner in Weitz & Luxenberg, one of the nation’s most powerful asbestos plaintiff law firms.
In an emotionally charged scene in the “Billions” premiere, Rhodes tries to make amends with the character Ira, played by Ben Shenkman, by offering him a cushy job on a trust set up to pay asbestos claims.
“I have lined up a seat for you on the Theakston-Manley asbestos trust, rubber-stamping claims,” Rhodes says in the “Billions” episode. “One meeting per quarter. Your fee, $350K a year.”
“Now, that’ll lead to more similar seats once you impress people,” he continues. “You put together three of these babies, that’s a nice little sinecure.”
Brian Koppelman could have been describing his own father in that scene. Charles Koppelman sits on five asbestos bankruptcy trusts that paid their trustees a combined $4.2 million in 2017. Four of the five have three trustees and Koppelman is sole trustee at the Metex Asbestos Plaintiffs Trust, which paid him $373,428 in fees and expenses last year.
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