The U.S. Attorney General’s office says it is reviewing an open letter submitted by a consumer group encouraging a criminal probe into the destruction by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) of pelvic mesh litigation documents.
That announcement comes after Corporate Action Network (CAN) asked Eric Holder Jr. to explore how and why Ethicon, a division of J&J, and its executives, including CEO Alex Gorsky, either intentionally or allowed to be destroyed thousands of documents relating to its pelvic mesh products.
CAN reports the executive could be facing two possible criminal violations, “obstruction of a criminal investigation of health care offenses and destructions of records in a federal probe,” according to the group’s press release.
Corporation Action Network was founded to hold corporations accountable for their actions when average citizens are harmed.
The group issued its open letter to Holder after a federal magistrate judge determined Ethicon destroyed tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of pages of documents pertaining to its top executives and people in a position to have launched the controversial transvaginal mesh implants onto the market. What the company knew and when it knew it is essential information to prove product liability
There are at least 75,000 product liability lawsuits filed around the country against six manufacturers alleging the plastic implants are defective and have caused life-altering injuries to women. Of that number, at least 22,000 cases name Johnson & Johnson and its Ethicon division that sells implantable medical devices for women.
Ethicon is facing the largest number of cases consolidated in one federal court in Charleston, West Virginia. Last month the federal judge overseeing the majority of pelvic mesh litigation cases failed to impose any sanctions on J&J after the document purge was confirmed.
Magistrate Judge Cheryl Eifert, of the U.S. District Court for Southern West Virginia, had determined monetary sanctions could be imposed for the document shredding while there was a litigation hold on those documents.
Johnson & Johnson has requested that the document destruction not be revealed to juries in the cases they face.
According to CAN, the Department of Justice can use is subpoena power to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.
J&J signed a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services that requires the company to report any misconduct within the company as well as a deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ that would have required the company to disclose any inadvertent document destruction.
Ethicon’s spokesman Matthew Johnson, told the Washington Post the company “acted appropriately” in the production of documents for litigation. Plaintiffs have not been disadvantaged by any “inadvertent loss of certain, limited documents” said Johnson.