Did J&J Know About Asbestos in Talc? The Criminal Investigation Commences

To date, the only occasion that talcum powder manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, has been exposed in the course of ongoing product liability litigation was when Reuters published its Special Report on company memos, internal documents, deposition and trial testimony – this was discussed at length in edition 263 of BC Disease News (here).

In spite of the fact that J&J immediately rebuffed the Report as ‘one-sided, false and inflammatory’, it has led people to believe that the company has known about asbestos in talc from 1970 onwards, but concealed the evidence from consumers and regulators. This revelation has undoubtedly affected J&J’s success at trial.

It has since materialised that the U.S. Justice Department has launched a criminal probe to discover whether J&J lied about the possible cancer risks of its talcum powder.[1] A Grand Jury, in Washington, is in the process of examining company documents.

J&J spokesperson, Ernie Knewitz, was quick to reject any implications that the criminal investigation is a ‘new development’ in the talc saga.[2]

This had no protective effect on stock value, however, as when details of the probe were announced a fortnight ago, the share price plummeted in value by as much as 5.1% in a single day.


(Source: Hargreaves Lansdown)


[1] Jef Feeley, ‘J&J Denials of Asbestos in Baby Powder Spur Criminal Probe’ (12 July 2019 Bloomberg) <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-12/j-j-denials-of-asbestos-in-baby-powder-spur-u-s-criminal-probe> accessed 12 July 2019.

[2] Rachel Sandler, ‘Report: Johnson & Johnson Under Criminal Investigation For Concealing Cancer Risks Of Baby Powder’ (12 July 2019 Forbes) <https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelsandler/2019/07/12/johnson--johnson-under-criminal-investigation-for-concealing-cancer-risks-of-baby-powder/#181ef6fe66e7> accessed 15 July 2019.