As one who has written countless press releases during the decades I worked in public relations, I just love picking through other people’s press releases now. I can smell a spin a mile away, and I’m always curious about translating the spin back into The Truth when corporations attempt to communicate with the media.
That’s why I laughed right out loud (giving Lily the Lap-Napping Cat a severe fright) when I read Pfizer Inc.’s recent press release about their rosy future ahead partnered with their new BFF, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. Buried in the depths of this rambling release (and didn’t their Communications staff learn in PR school to keep these bloody things to one page max?) is the news that Pfizer has just formed something called an “Executive Compliance Committee”.
Let’s explore what this means. Pfizer, the world’s biggest drug company, has been in the news lately because of what investigative journalist Ed Silverman on his always-intriguing Pharmalot website describes in this fashion:
“This innovative notion comes hard on the news that Pfizer paid a record-setting, ground-breaking, chair-swiveling, eye-rolling, jaw-dropping, $2.3 billion fine for illegally marketing several drugs, including Bextra, Zyvox, Geodon and Lyrica, over several years – even as other corporate integrity agreements were already in force.”
Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler explains:
“Our creation of the Executive Compliance Committee will serve as an important addition to our compliance infrastructure, and ensure the dedicated involvement of our senior-most leaders in our continuing efforts to fully integrate compliance and integrity into all that we do at Pfizer.”
Allow me to translate this PR bafflegab for you: “Blahblahblah.” Seriously, what Jeff likely does mean is this:
“We got caught red-handed committing health care fraud, the government is forcing us to do this, and besides, we signed a corporate integrity agreement on August 28, 2009 that requires us to set up this compliance committee so it looks good to external stakeholders and makes the courts think we will be good boys and girls from now on and that we have learned our lessons. Now get off our backs and let’s all party over the Wyeth anouncement!”
Read the U.S. Department of Justice ruling on this $2.3 billion penalty, which they describe as “the largest health care fraud settlement in the history of the Department of Justice, to resolve criminal and civil liability arising from the illegal promotion of certain pharmaceutical products.”