Oklahoma AG that successfully sued Johnson & Johnson slurs the wrong company
The Great State of Oklahoma wanted a scapegoat to blame for the large number of its residents who have abused opioid drugs and suffered injuries and deaths. The state's attorney general, Mike Hunter, could not resist taking populist cheap shots at the defendant the state sued, Johnson & Johnson, by repeatedly referring to it as "a family company" in court filings.
Just one problem: J&J of New Brunswick, N.J. is not in any sense a "family company"; it is a publicly held global giant. That slogan, "a family company," is extensively used by S.C. Johnson of Racine, Wisconsin, better known to the public as "Johnson's Wax." Now, to some people, all Johnsons look alike, I guess, but the two companies have nothing to do with each other.
With the avalanche of publicity that followed the huge verdict of $572 million for one year's worth of damages, the number of sarcastic public references to J&J as "a family company" got to be just too much for S.C. Johnson. From The Milwaukee Business Journal (registration required):
In the statement released by SC Johnson, Fisk Johnson [chairman and CEO] said Hunter and the state of Oklahoma incorrectly used SC Johnson's famous tagline, "A Family Company," in its legal filing. That is creating confusion among the public, he said.
That confusion is demonstrated in social media posts, including Twitter posts using the "family company" tagline in reference to Johnson & Johnson.
Johnson and Johnson a family company was accused of contributing to the opioid crisis.— louise willett (@louise21140975) August 27, 2019
Here is the full statement:
When this trial began, I raised the issue with Governor Kevin Stitt and Attorney General Mike Hunter that a critical part of our trademark tagline, "A Family Company," was incorrectly associated with Johnson & Johnson in the state's opioid legal filing. By repeatedly referring to Johnson & Johnson as a "family company" — a phrase that Johnson & Johnson does not use but one that SC Johnson has used for decades — confusion was created in the eyes of the public between the two companies. SC Johnson is a separate, privately held company and has never had any family or business connection with Johnson & Johnson. SC Johnson does not manufacture or sell pharmaceutical products.
This confusion does a disservice to the goodwill earned by generations of SC Johnson people and our iconic brands. This undermines the goodwill they work hard to earn every day.
The opioid epidemic has hurt so many families. Our hearts go out to those who have been affected by this devastating crisis.
And here is a demand letter that Fisk Johnson sent to A.G. Hunter.
Hunter owes S.C. Johnson a public apology.
Hat tip: Peter von Buol.