Wolverine Worldwide facing lawsuits over chemical dumping
Footwear maker Wolverine Worldwide is facing a series of lawsuits for chemical dumping that contaminated wells on private property in Michigan with ingredients known to cause cancer, thyroid issues and other diseases.
Six families filed a lawsuit against the Michigan-based company alleging the dumping of harmful chemicals went on for decades. A second lawsuit was filed in Michigan earlier this week alleging that the company created harmful pollution with its chemical disposal process. Additional lawsuits are also expected to be filed.
The law firm representing the six families released a statement affirming that "Wolverine used Scotchgard, a 3M product." Scotchgard contains ingredients that have been linked to diseases including cancer and thyroid issues and 3M has also been named as a defendant in the lawsuits.
Wolverine released a statement saying it is working with local, state and federal officials to "develop long-term water solutions." However, the company denied liability by adding, "While we intend to remain a good partner and corporate citizen and address issues facing our community, we will simultaneously protect and vigorously defend our company against ongoing litigation."
For its part, 3M denied allegations saying it has never manufactured or disposed of PFC-containing chemicals in Michigan. 3M did however pay $850 million to settle a chemical dumping case over the same chemicals that was filed in Minnesota.
This is the second series of lawsuits brought over chemical dumping against Wolverine and 3M. The two companies were sued in December of 2017 over a product they developed to chemically treat leather. Wolverine was also sued by Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality who sought to recover cleanup costs for removing chemicals near a now defunct factory in Grand Rapids, MI.
The lawsuits follow Wolverine's recent financial report for its fourth quarter of 2017. Wolverine reported a 20.7% decrease in revenue to $578.6 million. The company is amidst a restructure and closed 215 stores over 2017.
Blake W Krueger, Wolverine's chairman, CEO and president said, "While portions of [the company's] work will be ongoing, I'm pleased to say that the heavy lifting is behind us and the extra costs required to execute the [restructure] are complete."
Krueger added, "We are now ready to implement new tools and capabilities that were developed as part of [the restructure], and pivot our focus and energy to growth."
For 2018, Krueger said the company expects a decline in revenue of 1.3%, with anticipated revenue for the year in the range of $2.24-$2.32 billion. Krueger's statements were made prior to the recent group of lawsuits being filed.
The previous chemical dumping lawsuit that involved Wolverine and 3M, as well as other major chemical manufacturers, settled for a total of over $1.5 billion. The cost of litigation and settlement of the current lawsuits could put a significant dent in Wolverine's earnings forecast.
Wolverine's brands include Keds, Hush Puppies, Chaco, Saucony, Sperry, Merrell and Stride Rite.
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