A CEO’s Defense: His Scientists Made Him Do It!

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Late last year, Reuters reported that the global Big Pharma powerhouse Johnson & Johnson “knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder” — and kept that knowledge from consumers. J&J immediately disputed those charges in a series of full-page newspaper ads. But that didn’t stop lawsuits from thousands of cancer victims. Earlier this month, J&J CEO Alex Gorsky sat for a full-day deposition in one of those suits and emphasized that his company stands by the safety of its talc powders “unequivocally.” Two weeks later, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revealed that new FDA testing had discovered asbestos in a Johnson’s Baby Powder bottle. J&J the next day recalled 33,000 bottles. J&J flacks have since insisted that Gorsky deserves no blame in this entire Baby Powder situation since, as a lay person, he has to depend on scientists “to advise him.” What Gorsky does still apparently deserve: his $20.1 million 2018 compensation.

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Sam Pizzigati edits Too Much, the online weekly on excess and inequality. He is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. Last year, he played an active role on the team that generated The Nation magazine special issue on extreme inequality. That issue recently won the 2009 Hillman Prize for magazine journalism. Pizzigati’s latest book, Greed and Good: Understanding and Overcoming the Inequality that Limits Our Lives (Apex Press, 2004), won an “outstanding title” of the year ranking from the American Library Association’s Choice book review journal.

Posted In: Union Matters

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