Oklahoma Attorney general Mike Hunter says Johnson & Johnson CEO should 'write a check' instead of filing an appeal
Since a $572 million verdict was announced Monday in Oklahoma’s opioid case, state Attorney General Mike Hunter has been trying to goad Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky into paying the judgment rather than filing an appeal.
In an interview with The Oklahoman on Tuesday, Hunter said Gorsky could pay the money and “avoid the hypocrisy” of appealing the judge’s decision just after joining an effort to broaden corporate responsibility.
“Actions speak louder than words,” Hunter said. “He needs to write a check.”
Hunter was referring to a recent statement by the Business Roundtable, an organization of about 200 large U.S. corporations, including Johnson & Johnson. The organization said in a new statement of purpose that chief executive officers should lead their corporations to benefit all stakeholders, including “customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.”
In a Business Roundtable news release, Gorsky said, “This new statement better reflects the way corporations can and should operate today.
“It affirms the essential role corporations can play in improving our society when CEOs are truly committed to meeting the needs of all stakeholders.”
Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman on Monday found Johnson & Johnson had engaged in fraud and deceptive marketing practices that violated the state’s public nuisance law and contributed to the opioid crisis. He ordered the company to pay $572 million, primarily for treatment and prevention programs.
Johnson & Johnson, and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, immediately vowed to appeal, saying the verdict was flawed in numerous ways.
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Hunter on Monday referenced the Business Roundtable statement and said he had a message for Gorsky.
“I’m asking the CEO of Johnson & Johnson, Alex Gorsky, to put his money where his mouth is and get out his checkbook,” Hunter said.
In a statement on Tuesday, John Sparks, a Norman attorney who is part of the legal team for Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., said, “You can’t sue your way to solving the opioid crisis.
“Johnson & Johnson is committed to working with many parties to address the unmet needs of those impacted by this crisis. You also can’t shortcut the legal process. We will move ahead with an appeal because the facts and law are on our side.”