Former Pfizer Employee Testifies about Document Destruction
A former Pfizer employee claims that Pfizer colleagues destroyed documents related to a federal investigation of Celebrex and Bextra. The employee recently testified about these events before a federal grand jury in Boston.
This is his story, edited for length and to preserve confidentiality:
"I just finished reading your book and it is amazing to see many parallels to my recent experience. Although not a senior VP, I was a -----------. My territory was ----------- and I really enjoyed my job and the company. In the fall of 2004, I encountered a sales rep in a hospital parking lot and started chatting. Our conversation quickly turned to a common e-mail sent out by Pfizer to 'retain all documents related to Bextra/Celebrex.'
In the same week, a group of individuals from our geography also received notice to turn in our laptops so they could basically 'harvest' information from our harddrives (my VP informed me not to worry about that kind of request, that it happens all the time).
The rep that I was speaking with said that he received both messages and that he had spent the weekend "cleaning" his laptop as well as helping his less senior colleagues clean theirs, as well. This, of course, set off a big red flag in the back of my mind--but I didn't say anything to the rep.
I just took it in and went about my business. I had important information of 'illegal' activities going on in our territory--specifically, deleting <> files from laptops after being told very clearly to 'retain'; however, I stewed for a couple of days about who I should report this to. At the time, Pfizer did not communicate a clear direction to report these deeds.
Thinking that I would do the right thing, I informed my manager, as well as the DM and Regional manager of the rep that I spoke with. I quickly learned that speaking with the DM was a big mistake--by the tone of our conversation, it became clear to me that the reps were ordered to take these actions.
Anyway, long story longer: I was suddenly asked to meet with Pfizer attorneys and informed that I was being questioned as an employeed and that I didn't need my own counsel. I'm a very trusting person, and still believing that I was doing the right thing, complied with all of their requests. After meeting with a big NY law firm and answering their questions, I was asked to come back in a second time to meet with a Washington, DC law firm.
I didn't hear any follow up from these meetings. I answered all the questions truthfully about the reps, my interactions, etc. They asked a lot of questions about activities that I was not aware of, and of course, unable to comment on.
After that, I didn't hear any follow-up or feedback for giving this 'cooperation'--Until early in 2005.
I was contacted by the Pfizer attorneys and informed that the Federal Prosecuter in Boston wanted me to go in front of a grand jury. I was extremely nervous about the whole idea. But, rest assured, the Pfizer attorneys, Covington and Burling, made sure that I was confortable.
So much so, that they asked me back twice and had a couple of conference calls to 'coach' me on how to answer the questions. Making sure that I kept to very succinct yes/no answers and did not go into any more detail than I was asked to.
Being naive, I agreed to let Pfizer provide me with my legal counsel (apparently, the Pfizer lawyers could not represent me, but they informed me that my lawer would be -----------and that he would contact me--highly discouraging me, once again, to get my own representation).
At that time, Pfizer was going through another re-organization. In the Spring of 2005, I was told that my territory no longer existed and that I was 'displaced' from my job--my counterpart, who shared the same territory, however, got to keep her position.
I still had a position in Pfizer, but I would have to relocate (----------- was one lovely locale offered to me). I had until ----------- to find another place in Pfizer or take a severence package. In the meantime, my workload decreased and I was actively interviewing for other positions - with the blessing (but, of course not a reference) from my manager.
I had to go to Boston one day early for, what my adopted-Attorney called a 'prep' meeting. When I entered the room, there were about seven people around the table representing FBI, HHS, GAO, and of course the Fed prosecuter and assistants.
I was taken by surprise by this--and by the questioning, felt like I was the one being investigated. The next day, I was in front of the grand jury for maybe 30 minutes tops. I have to give the prosecutor credit, she was well-prepared and asked me very specific questions to tell the story that she wanted to in front of that audience.
Anyway, I ultimately left Pfizer, and after bouncing around a little, finally landed in a great job with a small company. I'm very happy to have that experience behind me.
I hope you find resolution with your ordeal--and thanks for writing the book; it helps stick up for the smaller, more trusting people like myself that believe in a company so much that they get led into this trap."