U.S. House panel seeks J&J documents on baby powder bankruptcy plans

(Reuters) – A U.S. congressional panel has asked Johnson & Johnson to provide it all documents related to the company’s plans to put its talc liabilities into bankruptcy, according to a letter sent on Wednesday and seen by Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: A bottle of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder is seen in a photo illustration taken in New York, February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/Illustration/File Photo

Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform’s subcommittee on economic and consumer policy, wrote that the panel is trying to learn how J&J’s plans may affect people who have said they were harmed by the company’s baby powder.

Krishnamoorthi also asked J&J to turn over documents showing how much funding it would provide to the new entity. The level of funding could determine payouts for victims.

Reuters reported this month here that J&J is exploring a plan to offload liabilities it faces from baby powder litigation into a new company, which would then file for bankruptcy.

The healthcare company faces legal actions from tens of thousands of plaintiffs, including women suffering from ovarian cancer and others with mesothelioma, alleging that its baby powder and other talc products contained asbestos and caused cancer.

“Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc has not decided on any particular course of action in this litigation other than to continue to defend the safety of talc and litigate these cases in the tort system, as the pending trials demonstrate,” the company said in a statement.

The statement did not address the subcommittee’s request for documents.

The House subcommittee held hearings on carcinogens in baby powder in 2019 and has heard from people suffering from mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

Separately, plaintiff attorneys filed a fresh legal challenge intended to prevent J&J from pursuing a bankruptcy for its baby powder liabilities.

They asked a Delaware judge overseeing a separate bankruptcy involving J&J’s talc supplier, Imerys, to prohibit the maneuver, arguing it would evade obligations J&J has to Imerys, according to court documents filed on Wednesday.

A J&J spokesperson did not respond to questions about the legal challenge.

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