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Monday, June 9, 2008

An Intimate Relationship

Crime and Punishment: Enough for Corporate Wrongdoing?

Corporate crime should not be a new concept to many. However, it has evolved into more troubling ways- not only in regards to its severity, but the methods of deterrence now being implemented against corporations- involved in the health care industry in particular. So it may be becoming progressively worse for U.S. citizens as a result.
Rather than speak of all corporations, what will be discussed is government health care fraud. Fraud basically is deception with the potential to harm others. In the case of pharma companies, this may include improper promotion and marketing, meaning that such tactics are or may be deceptive misconduct that may be illegal. In addition, there are the crimes of kickbacks and lesser crimes of misbranding products. Probably more methods of wrongdoing as well do in fact exist and happen. Yet the point is that drug companies should not engage in such wrongdoing to enrich their faceless existence with profiting off those who are ill in illegal ways.
Biggest fines so far of all time was for these companies- all involved in the health care system:
Hospitals were NME in 1994 and HCA healthcare for billing the government for work never done, among other things (This HCA hospital system is owned by Senator Bill Frist’s family, and somehow I’m not shocked in any way). HCA was fined twice within 36 months in 2000 and 2003.
Tap in 2001, Serono in 2005, Pfizer in 2004, Abbott in 2003, and GSK in 1997, Schering in 2004 and 2007, AstraZeneca in 2003, as well as Bayer this year- all for fraud against our government. There are many others, but these top the list.
Kidney dialysis clinic Fresenius in 2000 for faking claims was a big one in recent times. The irony is that dialysis never wanted a patent for the inventor’s much needed medical treatment.
Check out: www.taf.org for more information and companies busted for this type of behavior. And check out corporatecrimereporter.com to find out the criminals are essentially set free afterwards.
Criminals assigned to restore the health of others. This is troubling to say the least.
How is such conduct discovered? Typically by whistleblowers who worked for the described pharma or medical company, and such people are rare for a number of reasons. The whistleblower then seeks legal agents and files what is called a qui tam false claims act with a district attorney’s office (Boston or Philadelphia, if you want prosecutors to take you seriously). After the case is filed, the whistleblower verbally acknowledges the charges and evidence to the chosen prosecutors and others.
Such cases usually take years for unclear reasons, yet in the past two years, the settlements from such cases has approached 2 billion dollars after investigations ended that took years, which is tax dollars returned to the American public with these settlements.
So, what has been happening once a pharma company is busted. Criminal indictment by the district prosecutor? Hardly, yet appropriate. Usually, the prosecutor’s objective is to dismiss the case, but give the impression that such activities will not be tolerated by our government. So Corporate Integrity Agreements are mandated to the pharma company, but not really taken seriously, as some have more than one of these agreements active still. It’s an invisible ankle bracelet. A pharma company can and have committed equal or worse crimes while under such an agreement. This Agreement is issued after the deferred or non prosecution agreement is sentenced to the law-breaking corporation, which basically is a pre-trial diversion. Essentialy, it’s just parole, which is supported by the DOJ and the administration. The criminals admit wrongdoing, but not guilt. And they pay a settlement in the neighborhood of hundreds of millions of dollars. Not that shocking, if you consider the income of big pharma companies. These agreements are relatively new and partially a result of suggestions from what was known as a Thompson memo, which basically was created by a DOJ guy as commandments for prosecuting corporations and variables to consider when doing so, which ultimately offered responses as to why a greater degree of punishment was not enforced.
We are one of three countries in the world with the most prisoners behind bars, yet those that do similar if not greater harm to others get out of jail free. Double standard, I would say. Is this behavior by our legal system towards corporations an effective deterrent? Most think not. It rather seems like tacit approval of their conduct. And health care fraud may be more damaging than other types in other industries, yet lack of regulation allows such crimes to continue.
Citizens should make the laws in our country. Justice would then finally exist.

“Corporations cannot commit treason, nor be outlawed, nor excommunicated, for they have no souls.”
---- Edward Coke

Dan Abshear

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would think is is getting a little messy in the back pocket of all these politicians, with all the oil and pills they have stuck back there !