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Op-Ed

Tales of greed

August 1, 2022

What do you do if your boyfriend is more interested in someone else's tender offer than yours? Calling the authorities is an option.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

Was he there for me or for my inside information?

Romance is tough enough without having to wonder about that sort of thing. Unfortunately, it has to be on the mind of an associate at a “major law firm” who might need some help from an advice columnist.

The Securities and Exchange Commission last week filed suit in New York against a guy named Seth Markin who, allegedly, “misappropriated material nonpublic information” about a tender offer while staying at his romantic partner’s apartment. The partner was a “major law firm” associate who made frequent phone calls about the deal from her apartment.

There’s no mention of possible pillow talk but the SEC didn’t sue the associate or name her. The suit did say there were discussions of family and marriage.

Markin, according to the complaint, looked at the associate’s binder of documents on the tender offer when she wasn’t looking.

It gets worse for the associate, if the lawsuit is to be believed. Markin, allegedly, passed on the inside information to his friend, Brandon Wong, and Wong turned it into a $1.3 million profit. Wong thanked Mankin, the suit said, with a luxury watch and “some of Markin’s expenses on a Hawaiian vacation that the defendants took together.”

No mention of the associate going with them.

Hmmm. I wonder who might have turned these guys in….

At the very least, I hope this woman gets a movie deal out of this.

Honest greed. You don’t have to be corrupt to be greedy. You can be corrupt, but it’s not required.

This is the perhaps-not-entirely-intended lesson from a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in which we learn that a drug company wanted to cover $13,000 annual copays for Medicare patients.

This may sound like the drug company, Pfizer, was doing a good deed, but it’s more likely it wanted to make as much money as possible by making sure patients get drugs that cost $225,000 — mostly paid for by the government.

If patients can’t afford deductibles, they’re not going to get expensive prescriptions.

If that $225,000 figure seems excessive, that’s because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has cited a study that called the drug — tafamidis — “the most expensive cardiovascular drug ever launched in the United States.”

I have no idea why tafamidis, a drug used to treat a rare heart condition called transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy, is so expensive. My cynical explanation when reading about this was that they charge that much because they can.

But, for all I know, there’s gold, platinum and diamonds in the drug formula. The price could be completely reasonable. That doesn’t help anyone, though, if they can’t afford it.

So Pfizer, according to a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruling, proposed covering the $13,000 copays for Medicare patients and asked for an advisory opinion from HHS on whether that was legal. HHS said no because it would violate a federal anti-kickback law.

Pfizer then sued, claiming the scheme wasn’t illegal because the company didn’t mean to be “corrupt.”

Litigation ensued, and the court agreed with HHS. Corruption was not a requirement for violating the anti-kickback law.

Can you see the problem with this? Yes, Pfizer was probably being greedy — but what about all the patients who won’t get treated because they can’t afford the copay?

It gets weirder: the court noted that HHS “did not express any opinion as to the appropriateness of tafamidis’s list price.”

Seems like HHS ought to think about that.

Here’s my proposal: a government agency that does drug research and then gives away the formulas. Drug prices would plummet and conspiracy theorists would get a chance for a burst of creativity imagining what the government is doing to us with those drugs and vaccines.

We could call it the Public Health and Mind Control Department.

Imaging the freaking out.

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