(NaturalNews) Drug giant Pfizer has agreed to pay a $60 million fine to settle charges filed against the company alleging illegal bribery. According to CNN Money, both Pfizer and Wyeth, the latter of which has since merged with Pfizer, paid off foreign officials in Europe and Asia to speed up drug approvals, and give preference to Pfizer drugs in their countries' public health programs, which in turn generated billions of dollars for the world's largest drug company.
According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which will receive a $45 million cut of the settlement, Pfizer was in direct violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) when it illegally boosted its profits by bribing doctors and public health officials in Bulgaria, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Italy, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Serbia. Pfizer officials allegedly rewarded doctors in these countries with cash and vacations to prescribe more Pfizer drugs.
Knowing that it could get caught, Pfizer attempted to hide these illicit transactions by burying them in accounting records as business expenses. Rather than appear as payoffs; in other words, the bribes were entered into the books in such a way as to make them appear as travel expenses, training costs, freight charges, and entertainment.
"Corrupt pay-offs to foreign officials in order to secure lucrative contracts creates an inherently uneven marketplace and puts honest companies at a disadvantage," said James McJunking of the FBI's Washington, D.C., field office in a statement concerning the case.
Pfizer settlement amount far less than what the company generated in profits
When drug companies illegally generate billions of dollars in profits by bribing government officials and doctors to promote drugs; market drugs for off-label purposes, conduct fraudulent drug studies, and lie about the alleged benefits of drugs, they typically get off with a slap on the hand and a relatively small fine. This, of course, is exactly what has happened with Pfizer in this case.
As a result, there is no incentive for the company or any other to stop committing such crimes, because the monetary return is far greater than the relatively minimal penalty involved. And the best part about settlement arrangements such as this one, at least for the drug companies, is that the accused never have to admit they committed any wrongdoing, and their executives avoid facing any personal charges for the alleged crimes.
This is crony capitalism at its worst, and it is rampant throughout America today. Corporations are essentially free to break the law because the only potential penalty they will incur, if caught, is a modest fine and a few days of bad press, if that. The entire legal system, it seems, has been corrupted in such a way as to encourage drug companies to break the law because, in the long run, it is good for business.