(Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department is pursuing a criminal probe into whether Johnson & Johnson lied about potential cancer risks of its talcum powder and has convened a grand jury in Washington, Bloomberg reported on Friday, citing people with knowledge of the matter.
The Bloomberg report said the grand jury was looking into documents related to what company officials knew about any carcinogens in their products. (https://news.bloomberglaw.com/product-liability-and-toxics-law/j-j-denials-of-asbestos-in-baby-powder-spur-criminal-probe-1)
J&J disclosed in its annual report in February that it had received subpoenas from the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission related to the ongoing baby powder litigation but did not give more details.
The company said in a statement emailed to Reuters on Friday that there had been no new developments in the matter.
“As we previously disclosed in our February 2019 SEC filing, we have received a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Justice. We are fully cooperating with the DOJ investigation,” spokesman Ernie Knewitz said in an emailed statement.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
Shares of the company fell 5% to $133.02 following the report.
Johnson & Johnson faces lawsuits involving over 14,000 plaintiffs who allege use of its talc products, including Baby Powder, caused cancer.
A Reuters report on Dec. 14 revealed that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that small amounts of asbestos, a known carcinogen, had been occasionally found in its talc and powder products, according to tests from the 1970s to the early 2000s – information it did not disclose to regulators or the public. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-johnson-johnson-cancer-special-report/special-report-jj-knew-for-decades-that-asbestos-lurked-in-its-baby-powder-idUSKBN1OD1RQ)
(Reporting by Caroline Humer in New York and Ankur Banerjee and Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Rosalba O’Brien and Daniel Wallis)