Pfizer HR Sr VP's Private Helicopter Debacle: From CafePharma to Pharmalot
It started in May with a post on Cafe Pharma:
Is it appropriate for a member of Pfizer's Executive Leadership Team to commute to her/his job by corporate helicopter and have the company pick up the tab? Most colleagues who live in New Jersey have to take NJ Transit into New York City. What would shareholders think if they were made aware of efforts to conceal this generous benefit as Pfizer is desperately attempting to cut costs? These and other questions might make for compelling investigative journalism.
After a month of debate among Pfizer employees on Cafe Pharma about this unusual perk, the story broke on Pharmalot today:
The Pfizer Exec And The $300K Helicopter Bill
Some people drive to work. Others take a commuter train, subway or bus. There are myriad ways, after all, to travel to Pfizer’s corporate headquarters on East 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan. One exec, however, preferred helicopter rides and that expense, among others, caused a dilemma for ceo Jeff Kindler who, for a time, wanted the drugmaker to pay for such luxuries, our sources tell us.
In the midst of cutbacks that are costing thousands of Pfizer employees their jobs, Kindler late last year believed various expenses incurred by several execs were justified. One example - the weekly helicopter commute Mary McLeod, Pfizer’s senior vp of human resources, took to and from her Maryland home, sources say.
Executive travel on corporate planes is regularly charged to companies, of course. However, several members of Pfizer’s staff pointed out that not all of the expenses could be justified as wholly related to business activities and the info should be reported in the annual proxy. This left Kindler with a difficult choice - disclose such payments at a time when Pfizer is laying off employees or require the execs to reimburse the drugmaker for a portion of the expenses that couldn’t be justified.
In the end, several execs were handed bills. McLeod, for instance, was asked to reimburse Pfizer nearly $300,000 for her helicopter commutes, our sources say. A Pfizer spokesman declined to discuss specifics, but did send us this statement: “Across Pfizer, every expense is being reviewed. From the manufacturing floor to the executive suite, we are committed to leveraging every dollar.”