One down, two to go.
Boston Scientific Corp., the global medical devicemaker that employs 5,000 people in the Twin Cities, pleased investors Tuesday by settling a potentially $7 billion lawsuit with its longtime adversary Johnson & Johnson for the relative bargain price of $600 million. The news sent Boston Scientific’s stock to one of its largest single-day gains in a decade.
Two clouds of litigation still hang over the company. One involves claims from about 20,000 women who say they were injured by a Boston Scientific pelvic mesh product, and the other centers on a demand for more than $1 billion in back taxes from the Internal Revenue Service dating back to 2001.
Stock analysts have voiced concern that the company’s mounting legal problems are depressing its stock price. That concern seemed borne out Wednesday, as Boston Scientific’s stock climbed 12.4 percent to close at $16.68 on the news of the J&J settlement.
Investors are now watching the company’s other cases for signs of resolution. But if walking a legal high-wire bothers company executives, they don’t show it. The company has already set aside $972 million to cover litigation costs, and has pooled another large sum related to the IRS dispute.
“For a company of our size, with more than $7 billion in sales and very profitable, that is a very manageable number,” Chief Financial Officer Dan Brennan said in an interview earlier this month, when asked about the legal reserves.
On Tuesday, Boston Scientific announced it would pay its courtroom nemesis Johnson & Johnson a pretax settlement of $600 million to resolve a decade-old contract dispute. The first $300 million will come within 10 days of the agreement, and the rest will follow within 60 days. Boston Scientific is not admitting wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
The case stemmed from a binding agreement J&J had in 2006 to buy heart-device maker Guidant, which was based in Indianapolis with major operations in the Twin Cities. J&J lawyers argued that Guidant broke the contract when it shared confidential company data that allowed Boston Scientific to put in a better offer and buy Guidant for $27 billion. J&J claimed the tactic cost it $4 billion in revenue, plus another $3 billion in interest.
Tuesday’s settlement was only latest milestone in a long-running legal rivalry with J&J. In 2010, Boston Scientific paid $1.7 billion to settle three lawsuits over patents with J&J, just six months after Boston Scientific agreed to pay $716 million to settle a dozen other patent cases with J&J. All the settlements involve disputes over patents on stents, tiny metal tubes that prop open clogged blood vessels.
This week, Boston Scientific revealed that it had been considering a lawsuit against J&J over the rights to a different stent technology. But on Tuesday, it announced that as part of the settlement, it would agree to not to bring infringement cases related to flexible stents and related products sold by Johnson & Johnson.
“To me, this is just another piece of [Boston Scientific CEO Michael Mahoney’s] strategy to get rid of distractions, get rid of overhangs on earnings, and moving the business forward,” said Eric Simso, a Twin Cities medical device consultant and a former vice president at Boston Scientific.
Whether that spirit will translate into the company’s other lawsuits remains to be seen.
The IRS tax disputes are long-range issues that are tougher to predict, but the company right now is fighting the vaginal-mesh claims. It has won two in Massachusetts and lost two in Texas. More than 20,000 women now say the company’s netlike implant to treat pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence left them injured because of bad product design. Several major devicemakers face thousands lawsuits of their own over the same types of devices.
Analysts with Leerink Partners in Massachusetts predict Boston Scientific will settle the cases en masse for just over $1 billion, which was “manageable” considering the company’s free cash flow of well over $1 billion.
“Ultimately, we think the mesh litigation will largely be resolved by the end of 2016,” the analysts wrote.