Talcum Powder Lawsuits Dampen Investor Outlook
Although Sales Are Up, Shares Down for J&J Because of Talcum Powder Lawsuits
Wednesday, August 14, 2019 - Investors are on the fence when it comes to a long-term forecast for Johnson & Johnson. Historically a safe investment choice, stockholders are divided for two main reasons: On the one hand, J&J is currently facing major litigation, including more than 15,000 talcum powder lawsuits and national claims for lung problems from talcum powder, a federal investigation, and lawsuits in most states related to the company's role in the opioid crisis. On the other hand, despite all the bad press, the company's second quarter earnings soared in 2019.
With markets generally in decline in the United States as the China trade wars take their toll, investors are seeking to consolidate around safe choices. Historically, J&J would have been one such company: The largest pharmaceutical company in the world, J&J has been both a trusted household name for generations and generally regarded as a blue-chip stock.
While Johnson's Baby Powder cannot compete in revenue with the likes of top-selling prescription drugs, the staple product serves as an emblem of the trust American families place in the J&J brand. The onset of talcum powder lawsuits has rattled the company's reputation, which is a significant factor in investors' choices.
Filed by women who allege their cancer came about as a result of using talcum powder for feminine hygiene, a growing number of talc cancer claims led Reuters to complete an in-depth investigation of the company's talc-based body products over the past four decades. Americans were shocked to see a paper trail of deceit that has exposed millions of women to a heightened risk of deadly ovarian cancer. Several plaintiff won major cases against J&J prior to the Reuters article, but the piece has served to bring public attention to the matter and the number of national talcum powder lawsuits have swelled.
The evidence brought forward by ovarian cancer claims and made public by Reuters indicates the company has relied on a raw talc source that tested positive for asbestos content at many intervals over the decades. A growing number of individuals are now filing claims for mesothelioma from asbestos in talcum powder.
Federal investigators with the U.S. Department of Justice announced they were undertaking an investigation of J&J's handling of talc testing over the decades. This announcement came after the Reuter's piece and no doubt has increased the concern among investors about the stability of J&J's stock.
The company's role in the opioid crisis is another area of vulnerability for the pharmaceutical giant. Most states' attorneys general have filed suits against J&J, saying the company intentionally overproduced opioid drugs and engaged in dishonest and sometimes illegal marketing practices, incentivizing doctors for prescribing the highly addictive drugs.
Amid all this clamor, J&J announced Q2-2019 earnings of $5.61 billion, up 42% from the same period last year. The same day, the company's shares declined 1%, even as J&J boosted its sales forecast for the rest of the year. Only time - and the outcome of prominent lawsuits against the company - will tell J&J's fate in an unruly market.