Note 7 Commitments and Contingencies
As of July 1, 2011, we were contingently liable for guarantees of indebtedness owed by third parties of $693 million, of which $337 million related to variable interest entities ("VIEs"). These guarantees are primarily related to third-party customers, bottlers, vendors and container manufacturing operations that have arisen through the normal course of business. These guarantees have various terms, and none of these guarantees was individually significant. The amount represents the maximum potential future payments that we could be required to make under the guarantees; however, we do not consider it probable that we will be required to satisfy these guarantees.
We believe our exposure to concentrations of credit risk is limited due to the diverse geographic areas covered by our operations.
The Company is involved in various legal proceedings. We establish reserves for specific legal proceedings when we determine that the likelihood of an unfavorable outcome is probable and the amount of loss can be reasonably estimated. Management has also identified certain other legal matters where we believe an unfavorable outcome is reasonably possible and/or for which no estimate of possible losses can be made. Management believes that the total liabilities to the Company that may arise as a result of currently pending legal proceedings will not have a material adverse effect on the Company taken as a whole.
During the period from 1970 to 1981, our Company owned Aqua-Chem, Inc., now known as Cleaver-Brooks, Inc. ("Aqua-Chem"). During that time, the Company purchased over $400 million of insurance coverage, which also insures Aqua-Chem for some of its prior and future costs for certain product liability and other claims. A division of Aqua-Chem manufactured certain boilers that contained gaskets that Aqua-Chem purchased from outside suppliers. Several years after our Company sold this entity, Aqua-Chem received its first lawsuit relating to asbestos, a component of some of the gaskets. Aqua-Chem was first named as a defendant in asbestos lawsuits in or around 1985 and currently has approximately 40,000 active claims pending against it. In September 2002, Aqua-Chem notified our Company that it believed we were obligated for certain costs and expenses associated with its asbestos litigations. Aqua-Chem demanded that our Company reimburse it for approximately $10 million for out-of-pocket litigation-related expenses. Aqua-Chem also demanded that the Company acknowledge a continuing obligation to Aqua-Chem for any future liabilities and expenses that are excluded from coverage under the applicable insurance or for which there is no insurance. Our Company disputes Aqua-Chem's claims, and we believe we have no obligation to Aqua-Chem for any of its past, present or future liabilities, costs or expenses. Furthermore, we believe we have substantial legal and factual defenses to Aqua-Chem's claims. The parties entered into litigation in Georgia to resolve this dispute, which was stayed by agreement of the parties pending the outcome of litigation filed in Wisconsin by certain insurers of Aqua-Chem. In that case, five plaintiff insurance companies filed a declaratory judgment action against Aqua-Chem, the Company and 16 defendant insurance companies seeking a determination of the parties' rights and liabilities under policies issued by the insurers and reimbursement for amounts paid by plaintiffs in excess of their obligations. During the course of the Wisconsin insurance coverage litigation, Aqua-Chem and the Company reached settlements with several of the insurers, including plaintiffs, who have or will pay funds into an escrow account for payment of costs arising from the asbestos claims against Aqua-Chem. On July 24, 2007, the Wisconsin trial court entered a final declaratory judgment regarding the rights and obligations of the parties under the insurance policies issued by the remaining defendant insurers, which judgment was not appealed. The judgment directs, among other things, that each insurer whose policy is triggered is jointly and severally liable for one-hundred percent of Aqua-Chem's losses up to policy limits. The court's judgment concluded the Wisconsin insurance coverage litigation. The Georgia litigation remains subject to the stay agreement. The Company and Aqua-Chem continued to negotiate with various insurers that were defendants in the Wisconsin insurance coverage litigation over those insurers' obligations to defend and indemnify Aqua-Chem for the asbestos-related claims. The Company anticipated that a final settlement with three of those insurers would be finalized in May 2011, but such insurers repudiated their settlement commitments and, as a result, Aqua-Chem and the Company filed suit against them in Wisconsin state court to enforce the coverage-in-place settlement or, in the alternative, to obtain a declaratory judgment validating Aqua-Chem and the Company's interpretation of the court's judgment in the Wisconsin insurance coverage litigation. Whether or not Aqua-Chem and the Company prevail in the coverage-in-place settlement litigation, these three insurance companies will remain subject to the court's judgment in the Wisconsin insurance coverage litigation.
The Company is unable to estimate at this time the amount or range of reasonably possible loss it may ultimately incur as a result of asbestos-related claims against Aqua-Chem. The Company believes that assuming that (a) the defense and indemnity costs for the asbestos-related claims against Aqua-Chem in the future are in the same range as during the past five years, and (b) the various insurers that cover the asbestos-related claims against Aqua-Chem remain solvent, regardless of the outcome of the coverage-in-place settlement litigation, there will likely be little defense or indemnity costs that are not covered by insurance over the next five to seven years and, therefore, it is unlikely that Aqua-Chem would seek indemnification from the Company within that period of time. In the event Aqua-Chem and the Company prevail in the coverage-in-place settlement litigation, and based on the same assumptions, the Company believes insurance coverage for substantially all defense and indemnity costs would be available for the next 10 to 12 years.
The Company is involved in various tax matters, with respect to some of which the outcome is uncertain. We establish reserves to remove some or all of the tax benefit of any of our tax positions at the time we determine that it becomes uncertain based upon one of the following conditions: (1) the tax position is not "more likely than not" to be sustained, (2) the tax position is "more likely than not" to be sustained, but for a lesser amount, or (3) the tax position is "more likely than not" to be sustained, but not in the financial period in which the tax position was originally taken. For purposes of evaluating whether or not a tax position is uncertain, (1) we presume the tax position will be examined by the relevant taxing authority that has full knowledge of all relevant information; (2) the technical merits of a tax position are derived from authorities such as legislation and statutes, legislative intent, regulations, rulings and case law and their applicability to the facts and circumstances of the tax position; and (3) each tax position is evaluated without consideration of the possibility of offset or aggregation with other tax positions taken. A number of years may elapse before a particular uncertain tax position is audited and finally resolved or when a tax assessment is raised. The number of years subject to tax assessments varies depending on the tax jurisdiction. The tax benefit that has been previously reserved because of a failure to meet the "more likely than not" recognition threshold would be recognized in our income tax expense in the first interim period when the uncertainty disappears under any one of the following conditions: (1) the tax position is "more likely than not" to be sustained, (2) the tax position, amount, and/or timing is ultimately settled through negotiation or litigation, or (3) the statute of limitations for the tax position has expired. Refer to Note 13.
Risk Management Programs
The Company has numerous global insurance programs in place to help protect the Company from the risk of loss. In general, we are self-insured for large portions of many different types of claims; however, we do use commercial insurance above our self-insured retentions to reduce the Company's risk of catastrophic loss. Our reserves for the Company's self-insured losses are estimated through actuarial procedures of the insurance industry and by using industry assumptions, adjusted for our specific expectations based on our claim history. Our self-insurance reserves totaled $525 million and $502 million as of July 1, 2011, and December 31, 2010, respectively.