Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday it received subpoenas from the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission seeking documents related to the safety of its signature baby powder and other talc-containing products.
A J&J spokesman said the inquiries were related to news reports in December about product-liability lawsuits against the company, which caused J&J’s stock price to fall sharply. J&J JNJ, >+0.49% disclosed the subpoenas in an annual report filed Wednesday with the SEC. The company said it would cooperate with the government inquiries and continue to defend itself in the product-liability litigation.
Sales of Johnson’s Baby Powder are relatively small for J&J, which recorded $81.6 billion in total company sales last year. Yet the product, one of the few branded with the company’s name, plays an important role shaping J&J’s reputation.
The talc-powder litigation threatens J&J’s carefully cultivated image. At least 13,000 lawsuits against the company claim that use of Johnson’s Baby Powder and other talc products caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, as the lawsuits allege. J&J says decades of testing have shown its baby powder is safe and asbestos-free, and that it doesn’t cause cancer.
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