March 2, 2020 / 10:38 PM / 3 months ago

Shareholder calls for separation of J&J's CEO and chairman roles

FILE PHOTO: Alex Gorsky, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, takes the stand as a witness in New Jersey Supreme Court in New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S., January 27, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

(Reuters) - Trillium Asset Management LLC has called for the separation of Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ.N) chairman and chief executive officer roles, currently held by Alex Gorsky, according to a regulatory filing here by the healthcare conglomerate on Monday.

The asset management firm said that an independent board chair can provide a balance of power between the CEO and the board.

Trillium is seeking a vote on the shareholder proposal at J&J’s annual meeting on April 23.

The proposal also noted several lawsuits facing J&J and quoted a PWC survey which said 57% of directors surveyed, who sit on a board with a chair/CEO, say it is difficult to voice dissent.

J&J faces thousands of lawsuits alleging it sold talcum powders contaminated with asbestos and failed to warn users.

It also one of the several drugmakers and drug distributors facing lawsuits seeking to hold them responsible for the toll of opioid abuse in the country.

J&J said it recommends a vote against Trillium’s proposal citing the need to preserve the company’s flexibility to determine the most appropriate leadership structure.

Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber

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