Merck's next move
By Roger Parloff

(FORTUNE Magazine) – The news from Angleton, Texas, couldn't have been worse for Merck. The drug giant has been stuck with a $253 million verdict--and that's just the first of 4,200 personal-injury lawsuits filed against it so far. So what's next? The trial judge will probably cut the award significantly due to Texas tort-reform laws, and Merck will appeal the rest. The New Jersey superior court judge who is presiding over more than 2,000 of these cases predicts that the number could rise to 100,000. But don't expect Merck to alter its overall strategy, which has been to fight every case tooth and nail. In July, FORTUNE asked the now victorious plaintiffs lawyer Mark Lanier what his advice would be for Merck. "I'd say, 'Keep your attitude tough till after September '06, and then settle them all,'" he said. That date--the two-year anniversary of the pulling of the drug--is when the statute of limitations runs out for filing new cases. "Once you get the denominator fixed"--i.e., know the total number of cases--"it's a lot more feasible to figure out how much ... to pay. Don't sit down now," Lanier advised. "That's like blood in the water to a bunch of sharks." -- Roger Parloff

Second thoughts: Don't be surprised if Google's planned $4 billion secondary offering takes some pop out of the stock. Investors love liquidity--but they hate dilution.