Pfizer Inc. has agreed to pay $60.2-million (U.S.) to settle a U.S. government probe of the drugmaker's alleged use of illegal payments to win business overseas, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The settlement, made public on Tuesday, is part of a broad crackdown on bribery by multinational companies in foreign countries that has affected several of the world's top pharmaceutical companies.
According to an SEC complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Pfizer's misconduct dates to 2001. Employees of Pfizer subsidiaries bribed foreign officials to use Pfizer products and boost prescriptions, the complaint said.
The improper payments were made to officials in Russia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Czech Republic, China and Italy.
The 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes it illegal for U.S. companies and foreign firms whose stock is traded in the United States to bribe government officials in foreign countries.
Separately, the SEC also charged Wyeth, which Pfizer acquired in 2009, with similar violations. Pfizer and Wyeth agreed to separate settlements in which they will pay a total more than $45-million.
In a parallel action, the Justice Department said a Pfizer indirect subsidiary, Pfizer H.C.P. Corp, had agreed to pay a $15-million penalty to resolve a department investigation of alleged violations.
Pfizer H.C.P. also entered a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, under which the company can avoid prosecution if it meets certain conditions over time.
In settling the SEC charges, Pfizer and Wyeth neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing.