A federal jury awarded two U.S. Army veterans $110 million last month in the latest verdict to pummel 3M after it knowingly sold faulty earplugs to the United States military. While the government’s response to being defrauded by a company that chose to put its profits over the safety of United States soldiers can barely be described as tepid, hundreds of thousands of servicemembers have come forward to demand justice for themselves.
The verdict sent 3M’s stock price down 4% and 3M has said that it plans to appeal.
The company has reason to believe that it could be successful in such a move. Of the 11 trials that have thus far gone all the way to a verdict, plaintiffs have been successful in six of them while 3M has successfully defended itself five times. Losses total over $160 million.
3M came under fire after a whistleblower brought the earplug manufacturing issue to the attention of the U.S. government. The whistleblower alleged that the company knew it had made its latest run of Combat Arms earplugs too short and, as a result, the earplugs would not create the seal necessary to protect the wearer’s ear canal from loud sounds. Rather than pull the shipment back and correct the issue, the company kept the relatively insignificant $9 million it was paid for the earplugs and delivered them. 3M’s revenue that year was in excess of $30 billion.
After the obligatory fist pounding theatrics over the fraud, the government fined 3M $9.1 million and effectively got a refund on its purchase while leaving its servicemen and women with a litany of adverse effects to their hearing including tinnitus and permanent hearing loss.
As losses stack up and hundreds of thousands of servicemembers wait their turn to confront the corporation that put $9 million in front of their safety, 3M is likely longing for the day its only concern was the U.S. government.