Pfizer settles foreign bribery case with U.S. government

Tue Aug 7, 2012 1:21pm EDT
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By Toni Clarke

(Reuters) - Pfizer Inc has agreed to pay $60.2 million to settle a U.S. government probe of the drugmaker's use of illegal payments to win business overseas, government officials said on Tuesday.

The settlement is part of a broad crackdown on bribery by multinational companies in foreign countries that has hit several of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies.

Pfizer in 2004 became the first pharmaceutical company to volunteer information about past wrongdoing to the Justice Department, but the case has taken years to resolve.

Last year, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $70 million to settle U.S. charges that it paid bribes and kickbacks to win business in Greece, Iraq, Poland and Romania, the first such settlement by a big drug company.

The 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes it illegal for U.S. companies and foreign firms whose stock is traded in the United States to bribe government officials in foreign countries.

Eight of the world's top 10 drugmakers have warned of potential costs related to charges of corruption in overseas markets, according to a Reuters examination of U.S. filings.

Pfizer's general counsel, Amy Schulman, said of the settlement, "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."

According to a complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Pfizer's misconduct dates back to 2001. Company employees bribed foreign officials to use Pfizer's products and boost prescriptions, the complaint said.   Continued...

People walk past the Pfizer World headquarters in New York, February 3, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid