Two reports on the pharmaceutical industry issued recently put the safety of drugs into question, with one questioning whether new drugs are put on the American market too soon (before all the risks are known) and the other noting the global risks of corruption within the drug industry on public health.
Two companies have now disclosed receiving inquiries from the U.S. Department of Justice concerning Monaco-based engineering company Unaoil S.A.M. Media reports published by The Huffington Post earlier this year have implicated Unaoil in what HuffPo has called the “World’s Biggest Bribe Scandal”.
Whistleblower protection is gaining traction in many nations but “much remains to be done” according to an OECD report published last month titled “Committing to Effective Whistleblower Protection”. For individuals reporting corporate misconduct such as bribery, this is especially true as whistleblower protection in the private sector is still “almost a legal vacuum”.
There has been a couple news items related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act this week, with the Justice Department announcing a one year pilot program to encourage self-disclosure and the SEC settling its investigation of Las Vegas Sands with an enforcement action totaling $9 million.
We’ve seen two big stories concerning the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) come to light in the news media over the past few days. A report by The Huffington Post has alleged that “[h]undreds of major international corporations” including KBR, Rolls-Royce and Samsung hired Unaoil and that the company engaged in bribery of foreign government officials. Additionally, an anonymous internal whistleblower has accused Novartis of paying bribes in Turkey via a consulting firm to secure drugs on formularies.
Novartis agreed to settle civil charges with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday into its healthcare practices in China. The settlement of the investigation into the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act will result in a payment of more than $25 million to the SEC by Novartis.
The global problem of bribery isn’t going away anytime soon. Forty percent of all compliance officers reported the risk of bribery and corruption at their company will increase this year, according to the Kroll and Ethisphere Institute report released this morning: The 2016 Anti-Bribery and Corruption Report. Just 8 percent believed that their corruption risks would decrease in 2016.
Another princeling investigation has wrapped up at the Securities and Exchange Commission, although this one didn’t involve suspicions of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by an investment bank. Instead, it was mobile technology company Qualcomm that paid $7.5 million to resolve the government probe into bribery of employees of state-owned enterprises in China.
2015 might have been a slow year for the FCPA in terms of enforcement resolutions, but 2016 is already off to the races. Sciclone, SAP and PTC have already been settled. And now there is VimpelCom, one of the largest global settlements of bribery allegations worldwide as well as in the United States. Two other corporations (Mondelez and HSBC) also announced information about FCPA investigations proceeding recently.
There continues to be the release of significant FCPA news this year despite a report from law firm Miller & Chevalier noting that the number of resolved FCPA enforcement actions in 2015 was at its lowest level since 2006. The report looked at both SEC and DOJ investigations which resulted in penalties. All indications so far are that this was just a short term lull in enforcement rather than the beginning of a long term trend.