The Justice Department is planning to focus more criminal enforcement against the pharmaceutical industry's interaction with foreign officials, the head of the department's Criminal Division warned today.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, addressing the 10th Annual Pharmaceutical Regulatory and Compliance Congress and Best Practices Forum, said the application of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to the pharmaceutical industry will be pushed “in the months and years ahead.” He noted the depth of government involvement in foreign health care systems and said it creates a “significant risk that corrupt payments will infect the process.”
Justice prosecutors, Breuer said at the conference in Washington, “will be intensely focused on rooting out foreign bribery in your industry. That will mean investigation and, if warranted, prosecution of corporations, to be sure, but also it will involve investigation and prosecution of senior executives.” Breuer said effective deterrence requires that individuals be held accountable—when justified, of course.
“I don’t care if you’re a physician and I don’t care if you’re the clerical worker. It has to do with what you do. But if you do it, your M.D. degree is not going to be a shield,” Breuer said. Overall, he said, the Justice Department is pursuing more than 120 FCPA investigations in cooperation with the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Assistant Attorney General Tony West, chief of Justice’s Civil Division, called health care fraud “a multibillion-dollar problem. And it’s simply unacceptable.” West, who also addressed today’s conference, said that he recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that enforcement will not be limited to corporate actors. “In those cases where the facts and law allow us to pursue criminal cases against individuals responsible for illegal conduct, we will do so,” West said today.