GlaxoSmithKline are to be investigated by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office in connection with its “commercial practices”
The UK watchdog has given away very few details about its investigation of GlaxoSmithKline, the new probe is likely to be linked to allegations of bribery and corruption levelled at GSK in many different countries over the past year.
GlaxoSmithKline have been accused by authorities in China of bribing government and hospital officials in the country. The first of these allegations surfaced in the summer of 2013, with Chinese regulators now chasing GSK over bribes reportedly totalling £285 million. The bribes were used to encourage doctors to use their medicine, since the allegations GSK have made many changes and replaced its head of China operations. This hasn’t stopped similar accusations emerging in other countries.
GSK is now facing claims that bribes were also paid to doctors in Poland, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
Legal experts say allegations of bribery in Poland could be particularly damaging, because as a member of the European Union. As a member of the EU GlaxoSmithKline would be expected to uphold the same standards in Poland as in any other member country.
If any of these allegations are proved, GSK will have violated the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Both these laws were made to prevent companies based either in the US or the UK from bribing government employees abroad.
The Serious Fraud Office released a statement to the BBC confirming it had opened a criminal investigation into the commercial practices of GlaxoSmithKline and its subsidiaries. Whistleblowers are very valuable sources of information to the Serious Fraud Office and that it welcomes “approaches from anyone with inside information on all our cases including this one”.
In April of this year the BBC programme Panorama uncovered many interesting things, with one particular story about a former GlaxoSmithKline sales rep who was in Poland claiming doctors had been paid to promote GSK’s asthma drug Seretide. The following investigation found that 11 doctors and a GSK regional manager in Poland were charged in relation to alleged corruption during 2010 and 2012.
GSK has already confirmed that it informed the Serious Fraud Office, as well as the US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, about the Chinese investigation. The company said simply in a statement that it was “committed to operating its business to the highest ethical standards” and would “continue to co-operate fully with the Serious Fraud Office.”