By: Janet Smiles
Reported in the Wall Street Journal:
U.S. Effort to Remove Drug CEO Jolts Firms
A government attempt to oust a longtime drug-company chief executive over his company’s marketing violations is raising alarms in that industry and beyond about a potential expansion of federal involvement in the business world.
The Department of Health and Human Services this month notified Howard Solomon of Forest Laboratories Inc. that it intends to exclude him from doing business with the federal government. This, in turn, could prevent Forest from selling its drugs to Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration. If the government implements its ban, Forest would have to dump Mr. Solomon, now 83 years old, in order to protect its corporate revenue. No drug company, large or small, can afford to lose out on sales to the federal government, a major customer.
The “action against the CEO of Forest Labs is a game changer,” said Richard Westling, a corporate defense attorney in Nashville who has represented executives in different industries against the government.
According to Mr. Westling, “It would be a mistake to see this as solely a health-care industry issue. The use of sanctions such as exclusion and debarment to punish individuals where the government is unable to prove a direct legal or regulatory violation could have wide-ranging impact.” An exclusion penalty could be more costly than a Justice Department prosecution.
From the Forest Laboratories, Inc, press release:
Forest Laboratories Chairman and CEO to Challenge “Unwarranted and Unprecedented” Potential Action to Exclude Him from Federal Healthcare Programs
NEW YORK, Apr 13, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) —
Forest Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: FRX) today announced that Howard Solomon, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President, will challenge a potential action by the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OIG), to exclude him from participation in federal healthcare programs. Mr. Solomon was notified yesterday of the potential action in a letter from HHS-OIG.
The potential action emanates from matters that were settled by Forest in 2010 with no finding of knowledge or wrongdoing by Mr. Solomon. The only basis given in the letter notifying Mr. Solomon of the potential action is that he is “associated with” Forest. The letter gives Mr. Solomon 30 days to respond and say why he should not be excluded. Should HHS-OIG determine after that that Mr. Solomon be excluded, unless the effectiveness of such exclusion is enjoined by a court, Mr. Solomon would be required to step down from his present executive positions. Mr. Solomon plans to commence immediate litigation to prevent such exclusion from taking effect if HHS-OIG determines to proceed.
Board member and Chairman of the Audit Committee William J. Candee III, speaking on behalf of Forest’s entire Board of Directors stated, “It would be completely unwarranted to exclude a senior executive against whom there has never been any allegation of wrongdoing whatsoever. Mr. Solomon has always set a tone of the highest integrity from the top. At Mr. Solomon’s direction, the Company has significantly enhanced its sales force monitoring and compliance procedures. We believe the potential HHS-OIG action may well be beyond its legal authority.”
What is it called when the government decrees who will be the CEO of a private corporation?
Fascism: a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.