The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is launching a criminal probe into whether Johnson & Johnson® lied about the possible cancer risks of its talcum powder.
Internal documents suggest that J&J officials knew that their talc was contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos and failed to disclose this to the public. The DOJ investigation aims to uncover the truth about this alleged coverup.
The pharmaceutical company currently faces thousands of lawsuits claiming that Johnson & Johnson baby powder and talc products cause cancer. J&J has denied these allegations, stating that their talc has never tested positive for asbestos.
Probe Will Look for Criminal Wrongdoing
A Washington, D.C., grand jury is reviewing documents, looking for evidence of a possible cover-up. The goal is to find out precisely which officials knew about the presence of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson baby powder products.
Nothing has been proven yet. If the DOJ discovers that J&J knew about asbestos contamination in its talc and lied about it, the company executives may face criminal charges. However, grand-jury investigations can take years, and there’s no guarantee that this probe will result in charges.
This widespread issue has economic effects as well, as the Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating.
If it turns out that J&J has been lying about the safety of their products for years, this could prove they were misleading their investors. This is grounds for securities fraud, a deceptive practice that encourages people to invest based on false information.
J&J’s shares dropped 17% last December when documents surfaced in a Reuters report suggesting that the company knew their products were contaminated with asbestos. This resulted in significant losses for investors. Some investors have filed claims alleging that J&J defrauded them.
Reports Indicate Johnson & Johnson® Hiding the Truth
Johnson & Johnson has been conducting safety tests on its talcum powder for decades. According to the company, none of these tests have revealed the presence of asbestos in its talc.
However, internal company memos from as early as the 1960s suggest otherwise. These memos contain warnings from its company’s scientists who claim to have found asbestos in the talc. The memos caution the company officials that the presence of asbestos may pose a serious health risk to consumers.
Lawyers involved in the many lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson have dug up thousands of internal reports, confidential documents, and internal memos. The Reuters investigation of these documents last year revealed that J&J’s talc sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos.
Reuters reported that between 1971 and the early 2000s, some J&J talc samples contained traces of asbestos.
If it’s true that J&J talc samples tested positive for talc, the company has been lying to regulators, investors, and the public for decades.
J&J Cooperating But Continues to Deny Wrongdoing
Johnson & Johnson is cooperating with the criminal investigation and responding to subpoenas. The company states that it is “cooperating with these government inquiries and will be producing documents in response.”
J&J still denies any wrongdoing. The company even set up a website called Facts About Talc to defend its talc products and their safety. J&J also claims that any reports showing asbestos contamination in its talc were based on unreliable testing methodology.
In addition, the company continues to claim that its talc powder is and always has been asbestos-free.
In a recent statement, a spokeswoman for the company said that “Johnson’s Baby Powder does not contain asbestos or cause cancer, as supported by decades of independent clinical evidence.” The company continues to appeal unfavorable verdicts from recent lawsuits.
Cancer Lawsuits Continue Against J&J
Although Johnson & Johnson denies wrongdoing, thousands of people have filed — and continue to file — lawsuits against the company. Plaintiffs claim that they developed cancer due to use of J&J’s baby powder.
Many juries have sided with the victims in these cases, awarding compensation and ordering J&J to pay punitive damages.
Last year, a jury in Missouri ordered J&J to pay $4.69 billion to a group of 22 women who claimed that the company’s baby powder caused their ovarian cancer. Just this year, the company was ordered to pay another $325 million to a woman who claimed that asbestos in J&J’s talc caused her to develop mesothelioma. The company is facing over 13,000 more lawsuits.
Lovelace, B., Jr. (2019, July 12). J&J drops 4% on report DOJ investigating allegations company lied about talc cancer risks. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/12/jj-drops-4percent-on-report-doj-investigating-allegations-company-lied-about-talc-cancer-risks.html
Jef, F. (2019, July 12). Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-12/j-j-denials-of-asbestos-in-baby-powder-spur-u-s-criminal-probe
Girion, L. (2018, December 14). J&J knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/johnsonandjohnson-cancer/
The talc lawsuits. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.factsabouttalc.com/en-litigation.html