Sunday, May 27, 2007

Economic Times: "Pfizer CFO exit may've India angle"

Here is first "mainstream" coverage of the Pfizer India scandal. It is rather surprising that some individuals can deny allegations that are supported by written documents, which you can download right here on this site . . . see "Don't miss multiple evolving Pfizer scandals!"

Pfizer CFO exit may've India angle

MONDAY, MAY 28, 2007 02:44:12 AM

NEW DELHI: The recent exit of the world’s largest drug-maker Pfizer Inc’s CFO Alan Levin may have an India angle if the allegations of a US-based blog quoting a former Pfizer India employee are to be believed.

The blog, quoting Ashok S Idnani, an ex-deputy manager at Pfizer’s finance division in Mumbai alleges that Pfizer sold its Hyderabad manufacturing plant in 2004 at a price much lower than the market price, bribed government officials in violation of the MNC’s world-wide policies, and hired a detective agency to spy on unfriendly shareholders. It also accuses some unnamed Pfizer India officials of being involved in money laundering. Pfizer denies the allegations.

These allegations were made in a sensational three-part series carried by in the week running up to the announcement of Mr Levin’s resignation on May 20. The blog claims that Mr Levin’s exit last Sunday may be a result of its campaign featuring the ‘revelations’ made by Mr Idnani.

However, it does not specify a direct link between Mr Levin and the allegations made by Mr Idnani. In a company statement Mr Levin said he was leaving the company to explore career opportunities outside Pfizer.

Pfizer India, on its part, completely denies the allegations. “Blog sites in general provide open and unfiltered forums for the exchange of all kinds of information that may or may not have any validity. To date, investigations completed in response to Mr Idnani’s claims have found them to be baseless.

Pfizer takes such claims seriously and has by Mr Idnani’s own admission dedicated significant amounts of time and resources to evaluate them thoroughly,” said a Pfizer India spokesperson in an e-mailed response to ET. Pfizer Inc did not respond to a questionnaire sent over the weekend.

A Pfizer India official told ET that the present top-level shifts in the parent company are very much part of its restructuring announced in January to cut costs and to invest in new business development. Pfizer had announced in January that it would cut 10,000 jobs and close down three research sites and two factories in the US, as well as a factory in Germany and research sites in Japan and France.

Sources in the domestic pharma industry however say some of the allegations are being taken seriously by Pfizer’s top brass in the US. Adds an industry veteran, who has visited the blog: “These charges don’t just appear serious. They are very serious.” But a Mumbai-based investment banker and ex-Pfizer employee, who has not seen these postings, dismisses the blog. “Peter Rost is a joker. I do not believe any of these allegations,” he says.

So far, the foreign media does not appear to have made any connection between Mr Levin’s departure and India. Overseas media reports have cited “Pfizer’s desire for a CFO with Wall Street experience” to be the reason for his departure.

Overseas reports quoting analysts said that Pfizer is reinventing itself to beat competition from generic rivals and to tackle the expiry of patents. One analyst said Pfizer may now want a CFO who is less of a traditional accountant and more of a deal-maker.

None of this appears to faze Peter Rost, a former Pfizer veep, who describes himself as a “recovering blogaholic”. “While it is impossible to know if the latest whistleblower revelations contributed to his exit, the timing should result in some serious questions about what precipitated the decision to get rid of the 45-year old CFO who had only held the job for two years,” writes Rost, in his blog.

According to the blog, Mr Idnani doesn’t have any proof that anyone took kick-backs to sell the Hyderabad plant at a discount. Still he informed the then Pfizer general counsel and the present CEO Jeff Kindler of his suspicion. The company responded by instituting an inquiry in early 2006.

Quoting Mr Idnani, the blog alleges that he was told that the outcome of the probe would not be disclosed to him and he was fired six months later on August 2006. Mr Idnani says that when Pfizer recently sold its Chandigarh plant, officials from the parent personally interviewed the bidders and local officials did not have full control over the matter.

1 comment:

. said...

Peter, That mainstream article was inaccurate and biased. Its amazing what passes for "objective news" these days.

I believe your reporting on this and other stories is always professional and WELL supported with documentation.

It would appear to me, that if the media is questioning YOUR authority, maybe they should put up or shut up?

Keep up the incredibly inspirational work to improve consumer rights!

Dr. BK