August 8, 2012

Another Chamber of Commerce Member Is Caught Bribing Foreign Governments

Another Chamber of Commerce Member Is Caught Bribing Foreign GovernmentsIn late 2010, the foreign-funded U.S. Chamber of Commerce, perhaps Washington’s most powerful corporate front group, unleashed a lobbying blitz to weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The FCPA is designed to punish U.S.-based corporations that bribe foreign officials abroad.

Earlier this year, a subsidiary of Wal-Mart — which is a Chamber member —  in Mexico was caught bribing officials, funneling millions of dollars through that country. Now, another Chamber member, Pfizer, has been fined for its role in foreign bribery:

As promised, the US Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Pfizer with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act after findings various subsidiaries bribed doctors and other health care professionals employed by foreign governments in order to win business. […] The SEC alleges that Pfizer employees and agents in Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Italy, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Serbia made improper payments to foreign officials to obtain regulatory and formulary approvals, sales and increased prescriptions for its medicines. And they tried to conceal the bribes by improperly recording payments in accouting records as legitimate expenses for promotional activities, marketing, training, travel and entertainment, clinical trials, freight, conferences, and advertising, according to an SEC statement

At the same time, the SEC separately charged Wyeth, which Pfizer purchased three years ago, with its own FCPA violations. Pfizer and Wyeth agreed to separate settlements in which they will pay more than $45 million combined to settle the charges. And in what the SEC called a parallel action, the US Department of Justice says Pfizer HCP Corporation agreed to pay another $15 million penalty to resolve an investigation of FCPA violations.

As you can see, Pfizer has huge financial incentives to lobby the government to weaken the FCPA. Its membership in the  Chamber of Commerce allows it to hide behind the umbrella of that organization as it lobbies, literally, to weaken the punishments of the crimes its members commit.