Several investors want the Securities and Exchange Commission to require Abbott Laboratories Inc. to change what it says about the safety of PVC medical products. The investors also want Abbott to stop its effort to block shareholder resolutions that urge the company to seek PVC alternatives.
The eight religious institutions and one investment company announced June 29 that they had filed a letter with SEC accusing Abbott of putting out misleading information about the safety of PVC by not telling shareholders of potentially damaging government studies and market trends.
``We feel the omissions are very significant,'' said Sanford Lewis, a lawyer for the groups. ``They have a duty to report to shareholders on trends and uncertainties that may have a material impact on the company.''
He said reports from the World Health Organization and from U.S. government agencies have raised concerns about the phthalates used in some PVC medical applications, such as for very young babies. But Abbott's communications to its investors do not mention that, and instead argued that PVC is safe, according to Lewis.
Officials with Abbott Park, Ill.-based Abbott could not be reached for comment.
While the two sides spar over what Abbott should say publicly, the shareholders also want the SEC to tell the company not to block shareholders from pursuing resolutions at the company's next annual meeting. A 1999 resolution from the shareholders asking the company to develop alternatives to PVC garnered support from 2.7 percent of Abbott shareholders. That is just shy of the 3 percent it would have needed to automatically return to the ballot the following year.
``If they had not been misleading, the result could have easily been different,'' Lewis said.
The groups, including Trillium Asset Management Corp., Catholic Healthcare West and the retirement plan for the Employees of the Sisters of Mercy Regional Community of Detroit, argue that Abbott was misleading both before the vote and since.