GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has been accused of bribing doctors in China in order to boost sales. Chinese government officials say they have uncovered evidence of a bribery scheme involving 700 travel agencies who were used to funnel as much as three billion yuan ($480 million) in payments.
“We found that bribery is a core part of the activities of the company,” Gao Feng, the head of China’s fraud unit, said. “There is always a big boss in criminal organisations and in this case GSK is the big boss.”
Allegations about bribes at GSK first surfaced in January of this year in a series of tips made by an anonymous individual to company officials. The whistleblower alleged that the UK company made payments of $249 to $490 to promote Botox, a toxin used for medical purposes as well as for cosmetic purposes to get rid of wrinkles.
Soon after, the Wall Street Journal says it reviewed documents from as late as April 2013 for an internal GSK project called “Vasily” to pay 48 doctors who promoted Botox with “either a percentage of the cash value of the prescription or educational credits” depending on how many sales they made. GSK officials were encouraged to discuss the scheme on personal email accounts.
“I recommend that everyone else use a private email account because it will be better that way,” Ruiting “Candy” Chen, Glaxo central nervous system marketing manager said in an email translated by the Journal. “Remember you must send to personal email accounts, you accidentally sent to [another sales team member’s] public mail, careful next time!” wrote Any Zheng, Botox regional sales manager.
Chinese media reported on Monday that GSK allegedly made payments to the travel agencies which then transferred the money to doctors via credit cards when they made prescriptions. The travel agencies booked the payments for travel expenses to fake meetings.
GSK says it has suspended all work with the travel agencies. It also says Vasily was never implemented and has denied the charges.
“We take all allegations of bribery and corruption seriously,” a spokesman said in a press statement. “We continuously monitor our businesses to ensure they meet our strict compliance procedures. We have done this in China and found no evidence of bribery or corruption of doctors or government officials. However, if evidence of such activity is provided we will act swiftly on it.”
Chinese officials say that Mark Reilly, the head of GSK operations in China, fled the country on June 27 and has not returned. Several other executives have been arrested.
“The anonymous claims highlight the challenges multinational pharmaceutical companies face in China, one of their most significant and fastest-growing markets, because its health-care system is controlled and owned by the state and it has a tradition of government patronage and gift-giving,” write Christopher Matthews and Jessica Hodgson of the Wall Street Journal.
In reality, the comment by the Journal reporters reflects a bias on their part. GSK has been found guilty of routinely offering U.S. doctors lavish payments for promoting company products, despite the absence of a state health care system.
In July 2012 GSK agreed to pay out $3 billion to settle charges on pushing bupropion and paroxetine (as well as their failure to report safety data about the drug Avandia to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) — the largest such fine ever paid by a pharmaceutical company.
The U.S. Department of Justice noted that the company gave out “cash payments disguised as consulting fees, expensive meals, weekend boondoggles and lavish entertainment.” For example, doctors who promoted Wellbutrin were taken on “training sessions” to Jamaica. “Dr. Drew,” a TV doctor, was paid $275,000 in two months in 1999 alone to “deliver messages about [Wellbutrin SR] in settings where it did not appear that Dr. Pinsky was speaking for GSK.”
Nor was it the only Western pharmaceutical company accused of paying bribes to doctors to promote its products. In August 2012, in a criminal complaint issued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, investigators laid out detailed charges against Pfizer for paying bribes in eight countries: Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Italy, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Serbia.
For example, Pfizer Italy employees provided free cell phones, photocopiers, printers and televisions to doctors, arranged for vacations (such as “weekend in Gallipoli,” “weekend with companion” and “weekend in Rome”) and even made direct cash payments (under the guise of lecture fees and honoraria) in return for promises by doctors to recommend or prescribe Pfizer’s products.
Bosses’ profit-driven disregard for workers’ lives killed three and injured 34 in two factory building collapses in Cambodia less than one week apart.
“We are not surprised when they cave in, they are jerry-built buildings that owners put little money in,” said Say Sokny, general secretary of the Free Trade Union of Workers in a May 21 phone interview from Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The first factory collapse occurred May 16 about 30 miles south of Phnom Penh at the Taiwanese-owned Wing Star Shoes, which employs 7,000 workers and produces shoes for Asics. A mezzanine used for storage collapsed under weight it wasn’t designed to bear. Three workers were killed and 11 injured, although 50 were caught in the wreckage.
Yarn Neat, an assistant stock manager, told the Wall Street Journal that the floor had started shaking when she helped load materials into the mezzanine a week earlier and that she was afraid to walk under it. She had raised her concerns with superiors, who did nothing.
In March workers at Wing Star Shoes stopped work and blocked the main road for one hour, protesting low wages and dangerous working conditions.
Another 23 workers were injured during lunch May 20 as the shoddy building that housed the break room at Hong Kong-based Top World factory in Phnom Penh collapsed into a lake. The company produces for Swedish fashion giant H&M.
“Wages and health and safety are the most important issues for workers here,” Sokny said. “The working conditions are so bad that workers often faint on the shop floor because of heat, lack of ventilation, malnutrition, chemical exposure and long workdays.”
In January the Labor Ministry reported that more than 1,600 workers fainted at some 20 factories last year. The announcement came after the Free Trade Union gave the figure of 2,107 workers at 29 factories.
Strikes and other actions demanding wage raises and improved conditions are numerous. According to the FTU, some 85,000 workers at 101 factories were involved in strikes and other actions last year.
“It’s the only powerful tool we have,” Sokny explains. “We strike and do actions all the time. That’s the only way we can win anything.”
In December the Kingsland factory, which produces underwear for Walmart and H&M, closed and laid off workers without paying wages and severance. Starting Jan. 3 as many as 200 workers camped outside the plant in Phnom Penh to stop the company from moving machinery and other assets before workers were fully paid. On Feb. 27, 82 of the workers launched a hunger strike. Two days later Walmart and H&M agreed to a $200,000 settlement.
“We decided to go on a hunger strike to show that we are not workers who can be pushed around,” 26-year-old Sorn Sothy, a leader of the action, told Warehouse Workers United March 1. “We are strong, committed and united.”
On May Day garment workers marched to demand a raise in the monthly minimum wage from $80 to $150. The level is set by a Labor Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from the government, employers and unions.
“It’s supposed to implement a raise every fourth year,” Sokny said. “But nothing happens unless workers go into action with strikes and other protests. That’s how we won the raise to $80 in March. We need a bigger raise. Workers are hungry. The wages are not enough to pay rent, food and what your family needs.”
On March 28 Prime Minister Hun Sen issued an instruction that workers must stop striking and protesting. But they have continued, including in two actions that demanded reinstatement of workers’ representatives fired by bosses. In one instance some 100 workers gathered outside a provincial police station, demanding the release of seven workers accused of inciting others to protest.
Sokny said the challenge is to win more long-term improvements in wages and working conditions. The vast majority of workers are on short-term contracts, mostly three months. Those who the bosses see as leaders or “troublemakers” don’t get new contracts. New workers are often brought in with contracts that reverse previously won gains.
Until the mid-1990s Cambodia had no garment industry. After an explosive development during the last two decades, the industry now employs 500,000 in more than 500 garment and shoe factories, with an average size of 1,000 workers. More than 90 percent moving into newly created industrial production centers are women from rural villages.
The garment sector accounts for 90 percent of Cambodia’s export income.
‘It’s crucial that news outlets find a secure route for sources to come to them,’ said Kevin Poulsen. Photograph: screen grab of newyorker.com/strongbox
When Kevin Poulsen, a former hacker who now edits at Wired magazine, came up with the idea two years ago of creating an open-source drop box for leaked documents along the lines of WikiLeaks, he could not have imagined that its launch would coincide with one of the most aggressive US government assaults on press freedom in a generation.
Deaddrop unveiled itself to the world on Thursday, three days afterAssociated Press revealed that it had been subjected to a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into its news gathering by the Justice Department. Leak investigators had obtained phone records of more than 20 telephone lines used by AP journalists, without the news agency being informed of the violation.
For Poulsen, this week’s coincidental confluence of events underlines the potential value and importance of the DeadDrop project. “With the risks now so high – not just from the US government but also the Chinese government that is hacking newsrooms in the West – it’s crucial that news outlets find a secure route for sources to come to them.”
But this week’s AP saga has also underscored the perils involved for anyone brave enough to try and leak information. As a further reminder of the dangers, Bradley Manning will go on trial next month facing possible life in military custody with no chance of parole for having been the source of the huge WikiLeaks trove of US state secrets.
The Manning trial has a further relevance to the launch of DeadDrop, Poulsen believes. In a pre-trial hearing in February, Manning disclosed that before making contact with WikiLeaks he had attempted to hand his enormous mountain of digital documents to the Washington Post, New York Times and Politico but failed to find a way into any of those organisations.
“This is the important lesson here. There was no natural route for Manning to gain entry, and it was a simple idea from WikiLeaks of creating a web forum where documents could be securely uploaded that led to their huge scoops.”
DeadDrop relies on code that was written by the open data campaigner Aaron Swartz and completed just a month before he committed suicide in January. It will be open for any person or institution to use and develop. Poulsen expects that some people will spin off their own versions – or “fork the code” as it’s known in the business – while a canonical top copy will be maintained that can be constantly updated and improved.
The first major use of the code has been pioneered by the New Yorker, Wired’s sister magazine within Condé Nast, which has posted its version on its website under the title Strongbox. Nicholas Thompson, editor of newyorker.com, hopes that the new anonymous information sharing service will help redress the imbalance in what he calls the “data arms race”.
“Technology for surveillance and data capture by companies monitoring our behaviour has developed at such a pace that data privacy has failed to keep up. It’s an arms race between data capture and data privacy, and data capture is winning.”
The drop box is already a leap ahead of the technology used by WikiLeaks in that it allows for a two-way communication between source and journalist, and not just a one-way handing over of information. Sources are able to upload documents anonymously through the Tor network onto servers that will be kept separate from the New Yorker’s main computer system. Leakers are then given a unique code name that allows New Yorker reporters or editors to contact them through messages left on Strongbox.
Early reviews of the service have generally been favourable. Jonathan Stray of the Overview Project praises the use of the Tor network as the “gold standard for anonymous online communication”.
But Stray warns potential leakers against being lulled into a false sense of safety: “I think we need to understand it is far from a complete solution to the problem of source security.”
Strongbox may be secure, but if journalist and source are tempted to step outside its boundaries and communicate in other ways – by phone or email, for instance – they will leave behind a trail that can be traced. “Whether or not this is a problem depends on who you are trying to keep secrets from – as the recent secret DOJ subpoena of AP phone records shows,” Stray writes.
That danger was neatly illustrated by Bradley Manning. He was undone not through any breach in the secure channels through which he uploaded information to WikiLeaks, but because he engaged in a web-chat with the former hacker Adrian Lamo who then shopped him to the authorities.
Paradoxically, the transcript of those web chats were first published by Wired, having been brought to the magazine by Kevin Poulsen.
So far, experimentation with the creation of drop boxes to facilitate anonymous digital leaking has failed to reach the dizzy heights that WikiLeaks attained in 2010. Since 2011, WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange have been so beleaguered by legal and financial problems that they have closed their secure uploading channel altogether; the only way currently to pass information to the organisation is through direct contact with one of its small inner coterie.
An attempt by WikiLeaks defector Daniel Domscheit-Berg to create a spin-off called OpenLeaks has failed to make much impression. Similarly disappointing results have been experienced by mainstream news organisations attempting to take on the mantle of WikiLeaks.
The Wall Street Journal came under heavy criticism for the technical glitches contained in its anonymous drop box, SafeHouse, launched in 2011 that analysts said could have put leakers at risk of detection. The service is still available on wsj.com, but the Journal declined to comment about it suggesting it has been less than an unqualified success.
The New York Times also considered setting up a leakers’ drop box in 2011, but decided not to go ahead. A spokeswoman said: “As with any potential reporting tool, we’ll likely revisit the idea in the future as our reporting needs evolve.”
Jay Rosen, media critic at New York university, said the patchy record of such innovations told their own story. “It’s obvious the difficulties are greater than we thought. Since WikiLeaks, the authorities have become much more aggressive in prosecuting, and we’re still a long way from offering confidence in this system.”
An international protest planned for later this month against biotechnology company Monsanto is slated to span six continents and include demonstrations in dozens of countries around the globe.
Amid growing concerns over St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto and the impact the company is having on agriculture, activists have planned rallies for later this month in 36 countries.
Monsanto, a titan of the emerging biotech industry, has come under attack from environmentalists, agriculturalists and average consumers over the company’s conduct in the realm of genetically-modified organisms and genetically-engineered foods. Despite research on the effects of GMO crops being largely considered inconclusive, Monsanto has lobbied hard in Washington and around the globe to be able to continue manufacturing lab-made foods without the oversight that many have demanded.
In March, Congress passed a biotech rider dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” by its critics that essentially allows that company and others that use GMOs to plant and sell genetically-altered products without gaining federal permission.
“The provision would strip federal courts of the authority to halt the sale and planting of an illegal, potentially hazardous GE crop while the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) assesses those potential hazards,” dozens of food businesses and retailers wrote Congress before the bill was passed.
In the weeks since the rider was approved within an annual agriculture spending bill, anti-Monsanto sentiment has only increased. The international day of protest scheduled for May 25 is now looking at becoming one for the record books, and even a number of celebrities have lent their star power to help raise awareness of the movement.
“Here in America you don’t get the right to know whether you’re eating genetically modified organisms,” award-winning music performer Dave Matthews says in a video for the march that has been uploaded to the Web. Comedian Bill Maher and actor Danny DeVito also appeared in the clip to plead with people around the world to rally against GMO companies.
But even as the anti-Monsanto movement increases in intensity, the company itself continues to generate record-setting profits. In April the company announced a 22 percent increase in net profits, and representatives for the companies said they expect to see that trend continue.
“So our bottom line business outlook today means the momentum that we anticipated in our first quarter has clearly carried through into even stronger business results for the second quarter,” CEO Hugh Grant told analysts and reporters during a phone call last month.
Earlier this year, Grant told the Wall Street Journal that despite an international backlash, venues around the world have been unable to link to his company with any concrete health risks caused by their products.
“They’re the most-tested food product that the world has ever seen. Europe set up its own Food Standards Agency, which has now spent €300 million ($403.7 million), and has concluded that these technologies are safe,” Grant said in January. “France determined there’s no safety issue on a corn line we submitted there. So there’s always a great deal of political noise and turmoil. If you strip that back and you get to the science, the science is very strong around these technologies.”
But despite those claims, anti-Monsanto actions are expected to continue as planned around the world — and in those very countries. Four demonstrations are scheduled for Britain, including events in London and Bristol, and two separate events are scheduled for May 25 in Paris. In the US, demos are planned in 48 of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.
“The Times of London’s mammoth 6,900-word piece on Goldman Sachs over the weekend contains plenty of fodder for those that see the investment bank as Wall Street’s top dog, as well as those that see it as a creepy, conspiratorial vampire squid of finance.
“But the key quote that’s getting attention comes in Goldman Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein’s exchange with a reporter after a question on whether there should be limits to compensation:
Is it possible to make too much money? “Is it possible to have too much ambition? Is it possible to be too successful?” Blankfein shoots back. “I don’t want people in this firm to think that they have accomplished as much for themselves as they can and go on vacation. As the guardian of the interests of the shareholders and, by the way, for the purposes of society, I’d like them to continue to do what they are doing. I don’t want to put a cap on their ambition. It’s hard for me to argue for a cap on their compensation.”
So, it’s business as usual, then, regardless of whether it makes most people howl at the moon with rage? Goldman Sachs, this pillar of the free market, breeder of super-citizens, object of envy and awe will go on raking it in, getting richer than God? An impish grin spreads across Blankfein’s face. Call him a fat cat who mocks the public. Call him wicked. Call him what you will. He is, he says, just a banker “doing God’s work”
“Even if you have serious questions about whether investment banks actually perform a useful societal function, there’s no reason to get all bent out of shape about Blankfein’s comments. The “impish grin,” that seems to go along with the abbreviated quote makes it clear that the head Goldmanite just can’t resist winding us all up a bit.” (from The Wall Street Journal, Matt Phillips)
So God made a banker
nd on the eighth day God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need someone who can flip this for a quick buck.”
So God made a banker.
God said, “I need someone who doesn’t grow anything or make anything but who will borrow money from the public at 0% interest and then lend it back to the public at 2% or 5% or 10% and pay himself a bonus for doing so.”
So God made a banker.
God said, “I need someone who will take money from the people who work and save, and use that money to create a dotcom bubble and a housing bubble and a stock bubble and an oil bubble and a commodities bubble and a bond bubble and another stock bubble, and then sell it to people in Poughkeepsie and Spokane and Bakersfield, and pay himself another bonus.”
So God made a banker.
God said, “I need someone to build homes in the swamps and deserts using shoddy materials and other people’s money, and then use these homes as collateral for a Ponzi scheme he can sell to pensioners in California and Michigan and Sweden. I need someone who will then foreclose on those homes, kick out the occupants, and switch off the air conditioning and the plumbing, and watch the houses turn back into dirt. And then pay himself another bonus.”
God said, “I need someone to lend money to people with bad credit at 30% interest in order to get his stock price up, and then, just before the loans turn bad, cash out his stock and walk away. And who, when asked later, will, with a tearful eye, say the government made him do it.”
God said, “And I need somebody who will tell everyone else to stand on their own two feet, but who will then run to the government for a bailout as soon as he gets into trouble — and who will then use that bailout money to help elect a Congress that will look the other way. And then pay himself another bonus.”
So God made a banker.
Where was the use, originally, in rushing this whole globe through in six days? It is likely that if more time had been taken in the first place, the world would have been made right, and this ceaseless improving and repairing would not be necessary now. But if you hurry a world or a house, you are nearly sure to find out by and by that you have left out a towhead, or a broom-closet, or some other little convenience, here and there, which has got to be supplied, no matter how much expense or vexation it may cost.
– Life on the Mississippi – Mark Twain
Just for information royaldutchshellplc.com is a site that is highly critical of Shell and its associates.
DISCLAIMER: This is not a Shell website nor is it officially endorsed by or affiliated with Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
From: John Donovan <email@example.com>
Subject: Constant attacks on the website royaldutchshellplc.com
Date: 11 November 2012 15:29:54 GMT
Dear Mr Brandjes
I would like to bring another serious matter to your attention.
I refer to the constant attacks on our website royaldutchshellplc.com.
There are three strands to the activity.
The first is denial of service attacks where the site is flooded with traffic. We have upgraded our server a number of times in an effort to deal with these attacks, but the scale is such that even our latest high capacity dedicated server has crashed due to massive spikes in traffic, which cannot be due to normal activity.
BLOCKING SHELL BLOG ENTRIES
For over a year we have received attacks on the site in the form of massive numbers of blog entries being received. They have recently reached a level whereby legitimate blogs are crowded out, effectively blocking criticism against Shell. Blog postings arrive every few minutes 24/7 for several days. Then cease for a few days. The time interval between the blogs, during the periods when they are being received, is random. Multiple languages are used including Dutch, Greek, French and mainly English. Different IPS addresses are used for each blog. Different content, mostly nothing to do with Shell or related matters. The amount of text changes on every blog. Sometime just a few lines and sometimes a long screed. Different aliases are used on each posting. One posting contained a threat to hack the site. Despite the machinations, we have evidence that all of the blog activity comes from one source, with clues that the source is located in the Netherlands.
THREATS RELATING TO SAKHALIN ENERGY
We also receive forwarded emails almost every day, sometimes several times per day, from a source relating to Sakhalin Energy. The emails contain multiple languages. In more recent months, this party has also copied the emails to Mr Voser and to senior people at Gasprom, Sakhalin Energy and the UK police. The emails have contained implied threats against us personally arising from our intervention in the Sakhalin2 project. This party also seems to be located in the Netherlands.
We had initially wondered if some or all of the activity was due to mis-identification i.e someone thought they were attacking a Shell website. However, given the amount of time the attacks have gone on and the fact that we personally have been targeted, it seems that possibility can be ruled out.
We do not know if the multi-pronged attacks are co-incidental or coordinated.
Given the 24/7 nature of the blogging activity, it appears that someone has very deep pockets. Someone who does not like us very much.
I would be grateful if you could check whether an operation directed against us by Shell may have got out of hand?
As you know, Shell has used undercover activities against us in the past and more recently, set up a counter-measures team as well as initiating a global spying operation against us involving a Pittsburgh based agency with specialist expertise in cyber-crimes/warfare.
Is any of this activity still in progress?
I have recently brought these matters to the attention of a specialist UK police cyber-crimes unit as I understand that the activity I have described is unlawful.
ANY RESPONSE FROM SHELL WILL BE PUBLISHED HERE UNEDITED
The Irish economy is so bad, even the country’s famed pubs are hurting.
That’s right, there are fewer pubs in Ireland at which to drink away your sorrows, thanks to a combination of worries not the least of which is the brewing crisis on the European continent, according to USA Today.
The report offers some sobering numbers for the “publicians” of Ireland, who have seen more and more closings since the Irish economy in 2006, driven by a housing boom to rival the one seen in the United States.
Irish bar sales fell 5 percent in the past year alone and the number of bars fell to 8,300 from 10,000, according to USA Today’s story. Pubs that survive do so by cutting workers, closing during the week and cutting back hours, according to the story. Some owners are also taking some unique measures: offering to drive drunk patrons home themselves, for example.
Bars aren’t the only thing disappearing: 3,000 Irish leave the country each month, with Irish emigration levels at their highest point since the Famine.
Fallout from the European economic crisis has devastated the continent. In Greece, suicides are up, as this Wall Street Journal story from last year detailed. And last month, the Eurozone reported record unemployment at 11.3 percent.
Google shares fall on early publication of poor results
GOOGLE’S shares crashed by as much as 11pc this evening, after the web search giant published its results prematurely and exposed a 20pc fall in its profits.
Fitch latest agency to say outlook for Ireland improving
FITCH HAS become the second ratings agency within a week to signal an improved outlook for Ireland’s credit rating.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Fitch analyst Gergely Kiss said the agency could be approaching a point where it would remove its “negative” outlook on Ireland’s BBB+ rating.
He said, however, that it could still be some time before the rating itself would be improved. Such a move would rest on any deal the Government could secure with its euro partners on easing its debt burden.
Varadkar warns CIE that public transport system could collapse next year
Leo Varadkar has warned that the public transport system will collapse next year if the CIE group doesn’t get its house in order.
The Transport Minister says €36m in extra funding is still available for the company this year, but he Is “running out of pockets”.
The Minister has ordered CIE to develop a realistic business plan, implement cost reductions, sell-off non-core assets and secure new credit facilities.
Varadkar says the very survival of public transport depends on it: “This year I may be able to take money from one pocket and put it into the other, rob Peter to pay Paul, and kick the can down the road. But I’m running out of pockets and running out of road.
“If we don’t see progress on the four issues I’ve mentioned, I won’t be able to find the money to keep the companies operating by the middle to the end of next year.
“There will be no choice, public transport will then fail in Ireland
CSO figures show significant increase in number of people with no religion
According to the latest figures released by the Central Statistics Office about Census 2011, 277,237 of the population (6%) now describe themselves as having no religion, or being agnostic or atheist.
The number of people who describe themselves as Catholic is increasing but represents a smaller percentage of the total population.