Does Novartis Hate Whistleblowers?
You be the judge after reading this story.
I didn't realize that I should probably write this article, until I got involved in the more recent Novartis Whistleblower story with David Olagunju, who was fired after he objected to Novartis messing around with clinical data - at least that is what he claims in his lawsuit.
So here's what happened to me, which made me wonder, a few years back: Does Novartis hate whistleblowers?
I had decided to look for work in another drug company. So I wrote an e-mail to Dr. Daniel Vasella, CEO of Novartis. He was apparently impressed, because he responded right away and set up a meeting for me with Thomas Ebeling, his right-hand man, who had joined Novartis from PepsiCo, and was CEO of Novartis' pharmaceutical business.
We met at Short Hills Hilton in NJ, and the interview went well. I also told him about my internal whistleblowing and what had concerned me, and he laughed at that part. We got along well and I really enjoyed the meeting.
So I was whisked over to Basel, Switzerland, and met with Dr. Vasella himself, and Novartis senior management, since I was interviewing for the German country manager job, one of Novartis' largest markets.
I also met Novartis' Head of Global HR.
And that's when something happened. I told him why I wanted to switch jobs and mentioned some of the ethical issues I'd brought up with Ebeling. The temperature in the room immediately went from sunshine to Arctic cold. Let's say he didn't have a poker face.
Even before I left the Novartis office in Basel, Ebeling told me that he had kind of laughed at those issues I had brought up, but others hadn't, and there would be no job offer.
Of course, this really made me wonder what those Swiss were up to . . . and what Novartis was hiding.
And I wouldn't have thought more about this, unless, quite some time later, I was invited to interview with Novartis again.
This time I went to London and met with two business people from Novartis, (see business cards to the left).
And they were impressed and recommended that I should go to Basel to meet key people.
I didn't want to waste my time, so I contacted Ebeling, and told him what was up, so that he could stop the whole thing if Novartis still had a problem with me.
But things went forward, and an agenda for the meeting was sent to me.
I was excited, ready to leave, and then, the day before I was going to take off, I got a call from one of the people who'd interviewed me.
He said that they'd found an internal candidate for the job, and I should cancel the trip. That was really last minute, and really weird, so I contacted the recruiter who'd set the whole thing up.
Unfortunately for Novartis, they had told her an entirely different story.
According to the recruiter, the head of Novartis HR had rushed in to the people doing the hiring and told them to immediately cancel my interview, without any explanation.
The recruiter was wondering what I could possibly have done to cause this reaction . . . since Novartis obviously wanted to make sure that no one at the company interviewed me.
I agreed that something very strange was going on.
I had gone from being a top candidate, with a performance good enough to get me interviewed personally by Dr. Vasella, to being a person they wanted to make sure no one made the mistake of hiring.
What is even more interesting, is that some time later, Novartis sent out a letter to all employees. It deals with whistleblowers.
Click on images below to read . . .
Quite an irony, I'd say.
And here is the Novartis Whistleblower manual . . . click on images to read: