GlaxoSmithKline is being sued by two former private investigators, claiming that GSK misled them to investigate an innocent person, which ended in the investigators’ imprisonment.
In 2013, the two private investigators were detained. An article in The New York Times reveals that the private investigators, Peter Humphrey (British) and his wife Yu Yingzeng (American)—who were investigating potential fraud and bribery on behalf of GSK—were in their home in Shanghai when two dozen officers stormed in, confiscated all of their files, and they were then brought to detention house (undergoing a harsh interrogation).
As it turns out, a whistleblower had emerged—a 5,200-word email laid out a “detailed map to a fraud in the Chinese operations” in January 2013, explaining in perfect English how GSK was “pitching drugs for unapproved uses.” This email was sent to Chinese regulators, GSK executives, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (the company’s auditor) and was one of nearly two dozen sent over 17 months.
On behalf of GSK, Humphrey and Yingzeng investigated Vivian Shi, a former executive who oversaw government affairs in GSK’s Shanghai office (and had been previously fired), who was believed to be the whistleblower. The subsequent efforts to discredit Shi failed.
“There are indications that Ms. Shi was not the whistle-blower, and that there may have been more than one person,” according to an article in The New York Times.
The GSK case resulted in $500 million penalties and “a string of guilty please by executives” when prosecutors “charged the global drug giant with giving kickbacks to doctors and hospital workers who prescribed its medicines.”
According to the article in The New York Times:
Glaxo just wanted to make its problems go away. It offered bribes to regulators. It retaliated against the suspected whistle-blower. It hired Mr. Humphrey and Ms. Yu to dig into the woman’s background, family and government ties, as a way to discredit her. And Glaxo may even have gone after the wrong person, documents and emails obtained by The Times suggest.
In 2014, a Chinese court found Humphrey and Yingzeng guilty. The two private investigators spent two years in prison for “illegally obtaining government records on individuals.”
Humphrey and Yingzeng filed the complaint at the United States District Court in Philadelphia. The charge was made public on Wednesday, November 16.
“We do not believe this case has any merit and will vigorously defend against the allegations,” a GSK spokesman said.
Lead image photo credit: Montgomery County Planning Commission.
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Filed Under: Drug Discovery