Drug giant Pfizer agreed to pay a multimillion-dollar fine to U.S. regulators to settle charges it bribed foreign officials to acquire business.
Pfizer, along with Wyeth LLC, a pharmaceutical company Pfizer acquired a few years ago, agreed to pay $45 million, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday in a release.
The SEC said the firm of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, alleging that it and its subsidiaries in Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Italy, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Serbia made "improper payments" to foreign officials to gain business.
The New York-based Pfizer and Wyeth, charged separately, agreed to separate settlements totalling $45 million, the SEC said.
"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," said Kara Brockmeyer, chief of the SEC Enforcement Division's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Unit. "These charges illustrate the pitfalls that exist for companies that fail to appropriately monitor potential risks in their global operations."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department said Pfizer agreed to pay a $15 million penalty to resolve that agency's investigation of FCPA violations.
"Corrupt payoffs to foreign officials in order to secure lucrative contracts creates an inherently uneven marketplace and puts honest companies at a disadvantage," said Assistant Director James W. McJunkin, head of the FBI's Washington field office. "Those that attempt to make these illegal backroom deals to influence contract procurement can expect to be investigated by the FBI and appropriately held responsible for their actions."
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