WASHINGTON (CN) – Pfizer will pay $60 million to settle federal allegations that it bribed government officials and doctors in eight foreign countries to get contracts, drug approvals and customs clearance, the SEC said.
The SEC said that bribery was “so entwined” in Pfizer subsidiaries that they had “points and bonus programs to improperly award foreign officials” who were their best customers.
Pfizer subsidiaries paid bribes in Bulgaria, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Italy, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Serbia, “to influence regulatory and formulary approvals, purchase decisions, prescription decisions, and to clear customs,” according to the SEC complaint. “Employees in each of the involved subsidiaries attempted to conceal the true nature of the transactions by improperly recording the transactions on the books and records of the respective subsidiaries. Examples included falsely recording the payments as legitimate expenses for promotional activities, marketing, training, travel and entertainment, clinical trials, freight, conferences and advertising.
“These improper payments were made without the knowledge or approval of officers or employees of Pfizer, but the inaccurate books and records of Pfizer’s subsidiaries were consolidated in the financial reports of Pfizer, and Pfizer failed to devise and maintain an appropriate system of internal accounting controls.”
In a separate complaint, the SEC accused Wyeth – which Pfizer acquired a few years ago – of its own violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The two companies agreed to pay more than $45 million to settle both cases, the SEC said in a statement.
The Justice Department said that Pfizer H.C.P. Corp. will pay another $15 million to resolve FCPA violations, according to the SEC statement.
“Pfizer subsidiaries in several countries had bribery so entwined in their sales culture that they offered points and bonus programs to improperly reward foreign officials who proved to be their best customers,” an SEC official said in the statement.