It's Getting Personal: The Government Loses First Round in Campaign Targeting In-House Lawyers and Corporate Executives


Dissatisfied with the feeble deterrent effects of conventional investigations, commonly resulting in settlement agreements, corporate integrity policies and millions of dollars in accompanying fines, the federal government is sending a message to the industry: "Where the facts and law allow, the Justice Department will pursue individuals responsible for illegal conduct just as vigorously as we pursue corporations." (Press Release, Department of Justice (DOJ), Pharmaceutical Company Lawyer Charged with Obstruction and Making False Statements, quoting Tony West, Assistant Attorney General (Nov. 9, 2010)). The effects of this message can be felt across the entire drug and medical device industry.

The In-House Lawyer as Criminal Defendant

United States v. Lauren Stevens (8:10-cr-00694, D. Md.) signals a recent and disturbing trend by the federal government to initiate criminal, civil and administrative actions against individuals for the alleged wrongdoings of their employers.

Stevens, GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) former Vice President and Associate General Counsel, was charged last November with six criminal counts stemming from her alleged obstruction of a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation into GSK's marketing practices. Specifically, she was accused of making false statements and withholding incriminating documents from FDA during the agency's 2002-2003 investigation of GSK for its alleged off-label promotion of the drug Wellbutrin SR®. For six months, Stevens was forced to defend herself against these criminal charges for simply doing what lawyers do each day – lawfully and zealously representing their clients.

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