Where's John Grisham when you need him?
Seriously, you really couldn't make this shit up.
The Financial Times are running with a story that's as jaw-dropping as anything I've read thus far regarding the bribery scandal in China. I had to do a double-take, had I fallen asleep last night and somehow travelled back in time to April 1st? There were no skid marks from DeLorean tyres in my bedroom and my computer told me it was 29/05/2014.
"GSK salesmen want ‘bribes’ reimbursed" is the headline, what follows is pure Grishamism.
GlaxoSmithKline, the UK pharmaceutical company at the centre of a Chinese corruption scandal, is facing protests from junior employees who say the company is refusing to reimburse them for bribes they were ordered to pay by their superiors.
Now some Chinese sales staff are complaining that GSK has denied bonuses, threatened dismissal or refused to reimburse them for bribes they say were sanctioned by their superiors to boost the company’s drug sales. In some cases, managers instructed them to purchase fake receipts that were used to cover up bribes paid in cash or gifts to doctors and hospitals, according to salesmen interviewed by the Financial Times.
In some instances, managers disguised their involvement by using their personal email address to instruct staff to pay bribes and by ordering junior staff to claim on their personal expense accounts – even if the bribe was actually paid out by the manager – according to these people.
In late March, disgruntled staff sent 25 representatives to GSK’s headquarters in Shanghai, where they unfurled a banner that read: “Return my hard-earned money.”
Cor blimey governor, can you Adam and Eve it!
So, let's get this straight.
Glaxo's reps paid bribes out of their own pockets that were later to be reimbursed by the company...and now they are telling Glaxo that they want reimbursing?
Here's the Financial Times again...
“The expenses were paid with our own money, and although the receipts were not compliant, it was our managers who told us to buy the fake receipts,” said one former GSK salesman.
The FT article goes on to explain that some sales reps were warned not to implicate senior staff, in many instances, according to the FT, management "approached each person [rep] before they were questioned and asked them not to mention his name. He even prepared a story for them to tell the investigator.”
Glaxo have denied that this is a systematic problem throughout their global operation - they've even denied it after other allegations of bribery have surfaced in other countries, namely Iraq, Poland, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and now the UK. [back story]
We hear the same old line from GSK when they have been caught by investigating officials, citing that they will "cooperate fully with investigators".
I thought long and hard about this line. It's pure psychology. By stating that they will cooperate fully with investigators eases the guilt and, at the same time, paints a picture that Glaxo were unaware what was going on. In essence, "We will cooperate fully with investigators", actually means we've been caught red-handed and will answer any of your questions. We will not offer you any specific evidence unless you ask for it specifically. Glaxo do the same when faced with litigation too.
I find it laughable that reps who knowingly broke rules with their own money now want reimbursing. It's akin to the Yorkshire Ripper billing the tool shop where he purchased his hammer from. Apologies for using such a heinous crime as an analogy - I'm referring to the Yorkshire Ripper and not Glaxo's bribery.
It's been alleged that female sales reps were told to offer sexual favours to doctors in efforts to get them to prescribe more of GSK's drugs. [back story]
Are we to assume then that these female reps will be asking for reimbursement of the contraceptives and/or mouthwash they purchased?
The UK's Serious Fraud Office recently announced that they are investigating GSK. It's highly likely that they will just focus on GSK's illegal activities overseas and won't even bother to look to see if GSK reps have been doing the same here in the UK.
The FT article can be read here. You may have to subscribe to read all the content.