(Refiles to clarify corporate name in paragraph 10: Imerys Talc America instead of Imerys)
(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.
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 https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/exclusive-jj-exploring-putting-talc-liabilities-into-bankruptcy-sources-2021-07-18 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 former talc supplier, Imerys Talc America, to prohibit the maneuver, arguing it would evade obligations J&J has to Imerys Talc America, according to court documents filed on Wednesday.
A J&J spokesperson did not respond to questions about the legal challenge.
(Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York and Dan Levine in San Francisco; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Will Dunham)