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09 August 2012

Pfizer coughs up $60m to settle foreign bribery claims

One of the US's largest pharmaceutical companies has agreed to a $60 million settlement over charges that it bribed doctors overseas.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Pfizer with bribing doctors and other health officials around the world to increase product sales, reports web site LawyersandSettlement.
The company was initially slapped with a $45m penalty, but the US Justice Department has now announced that the Pfizer HCP Corporation will have to shell out another $15m.

Improper rewards

Kara Brockmeyer, chief of the SEC’s enforcement division, explained: ‘Pfizer subsidiaries in several countries had bribery so entwined in their sales culture that they offered points and bonus programmes to improperly reward foreign officials who proved to be their best customers. These charges illustrate the pitfalls that exist for companies that fail to appropriately monitor potential risks in their global operations.’
The charges – brought under the US’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act – relate to activities allegedly beginning in 2001, which reportedly received widespread support from foreign doctors. However, in some countries doctors are employees of the government, meaning the payments were considered illegal under the legislation.

Voluntary disclosure

Amy Schulman, Pfizer executive vice president and general counsel, responded in a statement ‘The actions which led to this resolution were disappointing, but the openness and speed with which Pfizer voluntarily disclosed and addressed them reflects our true culture and the real value we place on integrity and meeting commitments.
‘We expect every colleague across Pfizer to adhere to the highest standards of conduct, and we will continue to hold ourselves and our colleagues accountable for maintaining these standards.’

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