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Ex In-House Lawyer Re-indicted

The former associate general counsel of GlaxoSmithKline who won dismissal without prejudice of an obstruction and false statement indictment last month has been re-indicted.

The DOJ again charged Lauren Stevens with four counts of making false statements, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of falsifying and concealing documents related to Glaxo’s promotion of the anti-depressant drug for weight loss, which hadn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

A judge dismissed the charges against her last month, saying Stevens was entitled to use the defense of advice of counsel, and that the DOJ’s explanation of that defense to the grand jury wasn’t accurate. The judge’s ruling allowed the government to reindict her.

The case has lessons for company lawyers who deal with federal government agencies, including those handling FCPA investigations or answering compliance-related questions from the DOJ and SEC. 

In a short statement Thursday afternoon, the DOJ said the new indictment “contains essentially the same charges that were brought against Stevens in November 2010.”

It’s unclear why the DOJ is pursuing Stevens so doggedly.

In a blog post last month, law professor Ellen Podgor suggested the DOJ’s resources could be better used to help company lawyers understand their obligations when responding to government inquiries.

But in January this year, Lanny Breuer, head of the DOJ’s criminal division, told a meeting of corporate counsel near Washington, D.C. that Stevens was in the crosshairs.

As I have said before, if we find credible evidence of criminal conduct – by corporate executives or the lawyers and accountants who advise them – we will not hesitate to charge it, Indeed, as I am sure you are aware, a grand jury in the District of Maryland recently indicted Lauren Stevens, a former in-house attorney for a major pharmaceutical company, charging her with obstructing justice in connection with an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration into the off-label marketing of a pharmaceutical drug.

Podgor, who teaches at Stetson University College of Law and writes the influential White Colllar Crime Prof Blog, said later: “Should you really prosecute someone who may not have had the specific intent to do these alleged acts? Will this achieve the deterrence from criminality that we desire? Irrespective of whether one accepts the government’s claim that advice of counsel is an affirmative defense or the defense and court position that it negates the mens rea, is prosecution of this alleged conduct the way we want to spend valuable tax dollars?”

Stevens is scheduled to appear in federal district court before Judge Roger Titus today, with a tentative trial date set for April 26.

Download the first indictment in U.S. v. Stevens here.

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