July 3rd, 2007

Legal Conversations

img_2999.JPGFor those of you who have been following Johnson & Johnson, you know that we tend not to discuss the details around pending legal matters in the media.

I’m extending the approach we have used with the MSM to this blog. Just as my colleagues and I generally don’t respond to specific allegations raised in lawsuits from the media, I’m unlikely to do so on JNJ BTW. For instance, while I’m trying to encourage an open and productive conversation about the posts made on JNJ BTW, if your comments concern ongoing legal matters, it’s probably not going to be posted.

Why take this approach, you may ask? Wouldn’t Johnson & Johnson be better served by openly discussing the allegations raised in the suits facing the company?

Well, I’m not a lawyer, but here goes….

Lawsuits tend to concern fairly complex issues that require a careful analysis of the facts as well as an understanding of the laws that are in question. Most cases I’ve had knowledge of involve thousands of documents and hundreds of pages of depositions and expert testimony. Trials can take weeks on end. Furthermore, both sides in a legal dispute are often precluded from disclosing information obtained through discovery since it may touch on personal or competitively sensitive information. It’s therefore very difficult to talk comprehensively about a case before it is brought to trial.

It seems to me that intelligent and informed discussions about these matters are best limited to a setting that has rules and procedures – such as a courtroom – so that both sides have an opportunity to make their case fairly and completely. Otherwise information, documents and testimony can be taken out of context, and complex and highly nuanced matters can be oversimplified and misrepresented.

This is particularly true early on in a case – such as when a complaint is first filed. The discovery process can take years and often what may appear at first blush to be a fairly open and shut matter will turn out otherwise as the case progresses through the legal process.

In addition, there may be people out there who see JNJ BTW as an opportunity to highlight their own position on pending legal matters against the company. The blog shouldn’t become a podium for them to make their case – particularly if we are going to limit our response to court filings or to our day in court. I’m therefore generally not going to post comments that raise unsubstantiated allegations or that take a position on ongoing legal issues. It is our blog after all.

Though every now and then there will probably be posts on legal decisions that impact Johnson & Johnson, overall I will tend to leave discussions of pending legal matters where they belong – in the courts.

8 Responses to “Legal Conversations”

  1. general johnson says

    wimpy answer, get some fortitude, defend what i built,i’m rolling over in my grave

  2. Jim says

    As a journalist covering pharma for more years than I care to admit, this conservative, cautious policy is all too familiar to me — but just as maddening as when I first encountered it.

    It makes defendant companies seem uniformly guilty when they very well might not be, and contributes to public suspicion, which I’m sure you will agree isn’t helpful.

    As you say, discovery can take years, and frequently out-of-court settlements with nondisclosure terms are the result, adding to the industry’s stigma in society.

    If you were as clever at prudent disclosures as you are at reserving your defenses, you could get some of your story out while the news is hot without arming your adversaries with free ammunition. It just takes will to do so, to find a way. Unfortunately, eons of conservative nondisclosure has created an easier course, and most companies simply follow it, without innovating ways of satisfying their markets’ need for reassurance and continuing confidence after a suit is filed,

  3. W says

    Makes sense to me Marc. Defining the rules as corporates open up is important groundbreaking work – too difficult for government. Keep it up. William at Ideal Gov

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