First it was Johnson & Johnson (see here – $70 million in combined fines and penalties in April 2011).  Then it was Smith & Nephew (see here - $22 million in combined fines and penalties in February 2012).  Then it was Biomet (see here – $22.8 million in combined fines and penalties in March 2012).  Then it was Pfizer / Wyeth (see here  – $60 million in combined fines and penalties in August 2012).

Next up is Eli Lilly in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action announced last week by the SEC.   This post goes long and deep as to the SEC’s allegations which resulted in a $29 million settlement.

In summary, the SEC alleges in a civil complaint (here) as follows.

“Eli Lilly and Company violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with the activities of its subsidiaries in China, Brazil, Poland, and Russia.  Between 2006 and 2009, employees of Lilly’s China subsidiary falsified expense reports in order to provide improper gifts and cash payments to government-employed physicians. In 2007, a pharmaceutical distributor hired by Lilly in Brazil paid bribes to government health officials in a Brazilian state in order to assure sales of a Lilly product to state government institutions. In Poland, between 2000 and 2003, Lilly’s subsidiary made eight payments totaling approximately $39,000 to a small charitable foundation that was founded and administered by the head of one of the regional government health authorities at the same time that the subsidiary was seeking the official’s support for placing Lilly drugs on the government reimbursement list. Finally, Lilly’s subsidiary in Russia paid millions of dollars to off-shore entities for alleged “services” beginning as early as 1994 and continuing through 2005 in order for pharmaceutical distributors and government entities to purchase Lilly’s drugs. In some instances, the off-shore entities appear to have been used to funnel money to government officials or others with influence in the government in order to obtain business for the subsidiary. These off-shore entities rarely provided the contracted-for services. Moreover, between 2005 and 2008, contemporaneous with requests to government officials to support the government’s purchase or reimbursement of Lilly’s products, the subsidiary in Russia made proposals to government officials about how the company could donate to, or otherwise support, various initiatives that were affiliated with, or important to, the government officials.  As a result of this conduct, Lilly violated [the FCPA's internal controls provisions] by failing to have an adequate internal controls system in place to detect and prevent illicit payments.  Lilly violated [the FCPA's books and records provisions] by improperly recording each of those payments in its accounting books and records.  Lilly also violated the [FCPA's anti-bribery provisions] in connection with certain activities of its subsidiary in Russia.”

As indicated by the above paragraph, conduct in Poland, China, and Brazil gave rise to FCPA books and records and internal controls violations only.

Poland

The SEC’s allegations relating to Poland are substantively identical to allegations made against Schering-Plough in this 2004 FCPA enforcement action.

In pertinent part, the SEC alleges in its complaint against Eli Lilly as follows.

“During 2000 through 2003, Lilly’s wholly-owned subsidiary in Poland (“Lilly- Poland”) made eight payments totaling approximately $39,000 to the Chudow Castle Foundation (“Chudow Foundation”), a small charitable foundation in Poland that was founded and administered by the Director of the Silesian Health Fund (“Director”). The Director established the Chudow Foundation in 1995 to restore the Chudow Castle in the town of Chudow and other historic sites in the Silesian region of Poland.

The Silesian Health Fund (“Health Fund”) was one of sixteen regional government health authorities in Poland during the period. Among other things, the Health Fund reimbursed hospitals and healthcare providers for the purchase of certain approved products.  The Health Fund, through the allocation of public money, exercised considerable influence over which pharmaceutical products local hospitals and other healthcare providers in the region purchased.

Beginning in early 2000 and into 2002, Lilly-Poland was in negotiations with the Health Fund over, among other things, the Heath Fund’s financing of the purchase of Gemzar, one of Lilly’s cancer drugs, by public hospitals and other healthcare providers. Those negotiations occurred primarily between a team manager at Lilly-Poland (“Lilly Manager”) and the Director. Continuing at intervals throughout these negotiations, the Director asked that Lilly Poland contribute to the Chudow Foundation. The initial request came directly from the Director and the subsequent requests came from the Chudow Foundation.

The Lilly-Poland Manager knew that the Director had established the Chudow Foundation and that it was a project to which he was devoted and lent much effort. The Manager requested the approval of payments to the Chudow Foundation. The Manager falsely described the first payment as being for the purchase of computers for the Chudow Foundation. The second Lilly-Poland payment request falsely characterized the proposed payment as “[t]o support foundation in its goal to develop activities in [Chudow Castle].” That request documentation also noted that the “value of the request” was “[i]ndirect support of educational efforts of foundation settled by Silesia [Health Fund].” Similarly, the remaining payments were mischaracterized as monies paid by Lilly-Poland to secure the use of the Chudow Castle for conferences after its renovation. No such conferences took place.

Lilly-Poland eventually made a total of eight payments to the Chudow Foundation, starting in June 2000 and ending in January 2003.  [...]  The Manager requested the approval of the payments to the Chudow Foundation with the intent of inducing the Health-Fund Director to allocate public monies to hospitals and other health care providers in the Health Fund for the purpose of purchasing Gemzar.

China

As to China, the SEC alleges, in full, as follows.

“Lilly’s wholly-owned subsidiary through which it does business in China (“Lilly- China”) employs more than one-thousand sales representatives whose main focus is on marketing Lilly products to government-employed health-care providers. During the relevant period, the sales representatives worked from regional offices and traveled throughout the country, interacting with the health-care providers in order to convince them to prescribe Lilly products. The sales representatives were directly supervised by District Sales Managers who, in tum, were supervised by Regional Managers. Sales representatives paid out-of-pocket for their travel expenses and submitted receipts and other documentation to the company for reimbursement.

Between 2006 and 2009, various sales representatives and their supervisors abused the system by submitting, or instructing subordinates to submit, false expense reports. In some instances, Lilly-China personnel used reimbursements from those false reports to purchase gifts and entertainment for government-employed physicians in order to encourage the physicians to look favorably upon Lilly and prescribe Lilly products.

In one sales area, in 2006 and 2007, a District Sales Manager for Lilly’s diabetes products instructed subordinates to submit false expenses reports and provide the reimbursement money to her. She then used the reimbursements to purchase gifts, such as wine, specialty foods and a jade bracelet, for government-employed physicians. At least five sales representatives in the oncology sales group submitted false expense reports and then used those reimbursements to provide meals, visits to bath houses, and card games to government-employed physicians.

Similarly, in three other provinces, three sales representatives submitted false expense reports and then used the reimbursements to provide government-employed physicians with visits to bath houses and karaoke bars. In another city, five sales representatives submitted false reimbursements and then their Regional Manager used the money to provide door prizes and publication fees to government-employed physicians. In another city, seven sales representatives and the District Sales Manager for the diabetes sales team used reimbursements to buy meals and cosmetics for government-employed physicians.

Between 2008 and 2009, members of Lilly-China’s “Access Group,” which was responsible for expanding access to Lilly products in China by, among other things, convincing government officials to list Lilly products on government reimbursement lists, engaged in similar misconduct. At least six members of the sixteen-member Access Group, including two associate access directors, falsified expense reports and used the proceeds to provide gifts and entertainment to government officials in China. The gifts included: spa treatments, meals, and cigarettes.

Although the dollar amount of each gift was generally small, the improper payments were wide-spread throughout the subsidiary. Lilly has terminated, or otherwise disciplined, the various employees who submitted false expense reports and/or used the proceeds to provide gifts and services to government officials.”

Brazil

As to Brazil, the SEC alleges, in full, as follows.

“Between 2007 and 2009, Lilly-Brazil distributed drugs in Brazil through third party distributors who then resold those products to both private and government entities. As a general rule, Lilly-Brazil sold the drugs to the distributors at a discount; the distributors then resold the drugs to the end users at a higher price and took the discount as their compensation.  Lilly-Brazil negotiated the amount of the discount with the distributor based on the distributor’s anticipated sale. The discount to the distributors generally ranged between 6.5% and 15%, with the majority of distributors in Brazil receiving a 10% discount.

In early 2007, at the request of one of Lilly-Brazil’s sales and marketing managers at the time, Lilly-Brazil granted a nationwide pharmaceutical distributor, unusually large discounts of 17% and 19% for two of the distributor’s purchases of a Lilly drug, which the distributor then sold to the government of one of the Brazilian states. Lilly-Brazil’s pricing committee approved the discounts without further inquiry. The policies and procedures in place to flag unusual distributor discounts were deficient. They relied on the representations of the sales and marketing manager without adequate verification and analysis of the surrounding circumstances of the transactions. In May 2007, Lilly sold 3,200 milligrams of the drug to the distributor for resale to the Brazilian state; in August 2007, Lilly-Brazil sold 13,500 milligrams of the drug to the distributor for resale to the Brazilian state. Together the sales were valued at approximately $1.2 million.

The distributor used approximately 6% of the purchase price (approximately $70,000) to bribe government officials from the Brazilian state so that the state would purchase the Lilly product. The Lilly-Brazil sales and marketing manager who requested the discount knew about this arrangement.”

Russia

As to Russia, in pertinent part, the SEC complaint alleges as follows.

“From 1994 through 2005, Lilly-Vostok, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lilly, sold pharmaceutical products either directly to government entities in the former Soviet Union or through various distributors, often selected by the government, who would then resell the products to the government entities. Along with the underlying purchase contract with the government entity or distributor, Lilly-Vostok sometimes entered into another agreement with a third-party selected by a government official or by the government-chosen pharmaceutical distributor. Generally, these third-parties, which had addresses and bank accounts located outside of Russia, were paid a flat fee or a percentage of the sale. These agreements were referred to as “marketing” or “service” agreements.  In total, Lilly-Vostok entered into over 96 such agreements with over 42 third-party entities between 1994 and 2004.

Lilly-Vostok had little information about these third-party entities, beyond their addresses and bank accounts. Rarely did Lilly-Vostok know who owned them or whether the entities were actual businesses that could provide legitimate services. Senior management employees in Lilly-Vostok’s Moscow branch assisted in the negotiation of these agreements. The contracts themselves were derived from a Lilly-Vostok-created template and enumerated various broadly-defined services, such as ensuring “immediate customs clearance” or “immediate delivery” of the products; or assisting Lilly-Vostok in “obtaining payment for the sales transaction,” “the promotion of the products,” and “marketing research.”

Contrary to what was recorded in the company’s books and records, there is little evidence that any services were actually provided under any of these third-party agreements. Indeed, in many instances, the “services” identified in the contract were already being provided by the distributor, a third-party handler (such as an international shipping handler) or Lilly itself. To the extent services such as expedited customs clearance or other services requiring interaction with government officials were provided, Lilly-Vostok did not know or inquire how the third party intended to perform their services.

Contemporaneous documents reflect that Lilly-Vostok employees viewed the payments as necessary to obtain the business from the distributor or government entity, and not as payment for legitimate services.

The SEC also alleges that in 1997 and in 1999 Lilly conducted a business review of Lilly-Vostok.  According to the SEC, the reports raised concerns about Lilly-Vostok’s business practices and the reports “recommended that Lilly-Vostok modify its internal controls to ensure that [certain third-party] services were documented” and to “assure itself that [certain third-party] agreements accurately and fairly reflect the services to be provided.”

However, the SEC alleged as follows.

“Lilly did not curtail the use of marketing agreements by its subsidiary or make any meaningful efforts to ensure that the marketing agreements were not being used as a method to funnel money to government officials, despite recognition that the marketing agreements were being used to “create sales potential” or “to ‘support’ activities leading to agreement-signing” with government entities. In fact, during the 2000-2004 period — after the above-described reports, but prior to the company ending use of the agreements– Lilly-Vostok entered into the three most expensive of these arrangements.”

The three arrangements are as follows.

First, the SEC alleged that in response to a 2002 Russian Ministry of Health tender, the ministry selected a “large Russian pharmaceutical distributor” for which to purchase the products and the distributor in turn negotiated with Lilly-Vostok for the purchase of diabetes products.  According to the SEC, the distributor required Lilly-Vostok, “as a condition of their agreement” to enter into various agreements with an entity incorporated in Cyprus.

According to the SEC.

“Lilly’s due diligence regarding the entity in Cyprus was limited to ordering a Dun and Bradstreet report and conducting a search using an internet service to scan publicly available information. Neither the Dun and Bradstreet report nor the internet search revealed the Cyprus entity’s beneficial owner or anything about its business. Nonetheless, pursuant to the terms of its arrangement with the distributor, Lilly-Vostok paid the entity in Cyprus over $3.8 million in early 2003.

The Cyprus entity was, in fact, owned by the Russian businessman who was the owner of the distributor. There is no evidence of services provided to Lilly-Vostok by the Cyprus entity in consideration for Lilly-Vostok’s $3.8 million in payments. Lilly’s books and records improperly reflected these payments as payments for services.”

Second, the SEC alleges “at least two instances” involving foreign government officials and alleges as follows.

“Between 2000 and 2005, Lilly-Vostok sold significant amounts of pharmaceutical products to a major Russian pharmaceutical distributor for resale to the Russian Ministry of Health. The pharmaceutical distributor was owned and controlled by an individual who, at the beginning of the distributor’s relationship with Lilly-Vostok, was a close adviser to a member of Russia’s Parliament. In 2003, this official became a member of the upper house of Russia’s Parliament. Throughout the period, this official exercised considerable influence over government decisions relating to the pharmaceutical industry in Russia.

As part of most of the sales arrangements with the distributor, the official demanded that Lilly-Vostok enter into separate “marketing” agreements with entities with addresses and bank accounts in Cyprus. Under the arrangement, Lilly-Vostok paid the Cypriot entities up to thirty percent of the sales price of the underlying sales contracts in return for the Cypriot entities entering into an agreement “to offer all assistance necessary” in various areas like storage, importation and payment.

In conjunction with outside counsel, Lilly-Vostok conducted limited due diligence on these third-parties. However, the due diligence did not identify the beneficial owners of these third-parties or determine whether the third-parties were able to provide the contracted-for assistance. Nonetheless, Lilly-Vostok concluded that it could proceed with the transactions and paid the Cypriot entities over $5.2 million. In fact, the Cypriot entities were owned by an individual associated with the distributor controlled by the member of the upper house of Russia Parliament. The Cypriot entity transferred the payments from Lilly-Vostok to other off-shore entities.”

Third, the SEC alleges “in connection another series of contracts, from 2000 through 2004, Lilly-Vostok sold products to a distributor, headquartered in Moscow, which was wholly-owned by a Russian government entity.

The SEC alleged as follows.

 ”The purchase agreements were signed on the government-owned distributor’s behalf by its General Director. As part of the arrangement, the government-owned distributor selected a third-party entity with an address in the British Virgin Islands (“the BVI entity”) with which Lilly-Vostok entered into agreements for the broadly defined “services” enumerated in the Lilly-Vostok template (see above). Under the terms of the agreements between Lilly-Vostok and the BVI entity, Lilly-Vostok was to pay the BVI entity up to 15% of the price of the product purchased by the government-owned distributor. Accordingly, from 2000 through 2005, Lilly-Vostok made approximately 65 payments to the BVI entity totaling approximately $2 million.

There is no evidence that the BVI entity performed any of the services listed in its agreement with Lilly-Vostok. There is also no evidence that Lilly-Vostok performed any due diligence or inquiry as to whether the BVI entity was able or did perform the contracted-for services. Lastly, there is no evidence that Lilly-Vostok performed any due diligence or inquiry into the identity of the beneficial owner of the BVI entity. In fact, the beneficial owner of the BVI entity was the General Director of the government-owned distributor, and he ultimately received the payments from the BVI entity.”

As to these various arrangements, the SEC alleges as follows.  “Lilly did not direct Lilly-Vostok to cease entering into these third-party agreements until 2004. However, Lilly permitted the subsidiary to continue making payments under already existing third-party contracts as late as 2005.”

As to the above Russian conduct, the complaint charges violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.  Of note, the complaints specifically pleads as follows regarding knowledge.  “When knowledge of the existence of a particular circumstance is required for an offense, such knowledge is established if a person is aware of a high probability of the existence of such circumstances, unless the person actually believes that the circumstance does not exist.”

The SEC complaint also contains the following allegation.

“From 2005 through 2008, Lilly-Vostok made various proposals to government officials in Russia regarding how Lilly-Vostok could donate to or otherwise support various initiatives that were affiliated with public or private institutions headed by the government officials or otherwise important to the government officials. Examples included their personal participation or the participation of people from their institutions in clinical trials and international and regional conferences and the support of charities and educational events associated with the institutes. At times, these proposals to government officials were made in a communication that also included a request for assistance in getting a product reimbursed or purchased by the government. Generally, Lilly-Vostok personnel believed these proposals were proper because of their relevance to public health issues and many of the proposals were reviewed by counsel. Nonetheless, Lilly-Vostok did not have in place internal controls through which such proposals were vetted to ascertain whether Lilly-Vostok was offering something of value to a government official for a purpose of influencing or inducing him or her to assist Lilly-Vostok in obtaining or retaining business.”

As to Lilly’s books and records, the SEC alleges as follows.

“[S]ubsidiaries of Eli Lilly made numerous payments that were incorrectly described in the company’s books and records. In China, payments were falsely described as reimbursement of expenses when, in fact, the money was used to provide gifts to government-employed physicians. In Brazil, money that was described in company records as a “discount” for a pharmaceutical distributor was, in actuality, a bribe for government officials. In Poland, payments classified as charitable donations were not intended for a genuine charitable purpose but rather to induce a government official to assent to the purchase of a Lilly product. Finally, in Russia, millions of dollars in payments, described in the company’s books and records as for various services, were actually payments to assure that Lilly was able to conduct business with certain pharmaceutical distributors.”

As to Lilly’s internal controls, the SEC alleges as follows.

“During the relevant period, Lilly and its subsidiaries failed to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting sufficient to provide reasonable assurance that the company maintained accountability for its assets and transactions were executed in accordance with management’s authorization. Particularly, Lilly did not adequately verify that intermediaries with which the company was doing government-related business would not provide a benefit to a government official on Lilly’s behalf in order to obtain or retain business. Lilly and its subsidiaries primarily relied on assurances and information provided in the paperwork by these intermediaries or by Lilly personnel rather than engaging in adequate verification and analyzing the surrounding circumstances of the transaction. Lilly and its subsidiaries’ employees considered and offered benefits to government officials at the same time they were asking those government officials to assist with the reimbursement or purchase of Lilly’s products with inadequate safeguards to assure that its employees were not offering items of values to a government official with a purpose to assist Lilly in retaining or obtaining business.

Moreover, despite an understanding that certain emerging markets were most vulnerable to FCPA violations, Lilly’s audit department, based out of Indianapolis, had no procedures specifically designed to assess the FCPA or bribery risks of sales and purchases. Accordingly, transactions with off-shore entities or with government-affiliated entities did not receive specialized or closer review for possible FCPA violations.  In assessing these transactions, the auditors relied upon the standard accounting controls which primarily assured the soundness of the paperwork. There was little done to assess whether, despite the existence of facially acceptable paperwork, the surrounding circumstances or terms of a transaction suggested the possibility of an FCPA violation or bribery.

As to Lilly’s remedial efforts, the SEC complaint states as follows.

“Since the time of the conduct noted in this Complaint, Lilly has made improvements to its global anti-corruption compliance program, including: enhancing anticorruption due diligence requirements for relationships with third parties; implementing compliance monitoring and corporate auditing specifically tailored to anti-corruption; enhancing financial controls and governance; and expanding anti-corruption training throughout the organization.”

As noted in this SEC release,  Lilly, without admitting or denying the allegations, agreed to pay disgorgement of $13,955,196, prejudgment interest of $6,743,538, and a penalty of $8.7 million for a total payment of $29,398,734.  The release also notes that “Lilly also agreed to comply with certain undertakings including the retention of an independent consultant to review and make recommendations about its foreign corruption policies and procedures.”

In Lilly’s release (below) the retention period of the consultant is identified as 60 days and in the SEC’s proposed final judgement, the consultant is identified as FTI Consulting which has been assisting Lilly in connection with a previous Corporate Integrity Agreement.

The case has been assigned to Judge Beryl A. Howell (U.S. District Court, District of Columbia).

William Baker III (Latham & Watkins) represented Lilly.

In the SEC’s release, Kara Novaco Brockmeyer (Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Unit) stated as follows. “Eli Lilly and its subsidiaries possessed a ‘check the box’ mentality when it came to third-party due diligence. Companies can’t simply rely on paper-thin assurances by employees, distributors, or customers. They need to look at the surrounding circumstances of any payment to adequately assess whether it could wind up in a government official’s pocket.”  In the same release, Antonia Chion (Associate Director in the SEC Enforcement Division) stated as follows.  “When a parent company learns tell-tale signs of a bribery scheme involving a subsidiary, it must take immediate action to assure that the FCPA is not being violated.  We strongly caution company officials from averting their eyes from what they do not wish to see.”

This Lilly release quotes Anne Nobles (Lilly’s Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer and Senior VP of Enterprise Risk Management) as follows.  “Lilly requires our employees to act with integrity with all external parties and in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.  Since ours is a business based on trust, we strive to conduct ourselves in an ethical way that is beyond reproach. We have cooperated with the U.S. government throughout this investigation and have strengthened our internal controls and compliance program globally, including significant investment in our global anti-corruption program.”  The Lilly release further states as follows.  “The SEC noted that since the time of the conduct alleged in its complaint, Lilly has made improvements to its global anti-corruption compliance program, including: enhancing anti-corruption due diligence requirements for relationships with third parties; implementing compliance monitoring and corporate auditing specifically tailored to anti-corruption; enhancing financial controls and governance; and expanding anti-corruption training throughout the organization.”  The release further notes that “Lilly was first notified of the investigation in August 2003″ and describes the independent compliance consultant as conducting a ”60-day review of the company’s internal controls and compliance program related to the FCPA.”