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Bill Waite
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Shruti J. Shah
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Russell A. Stamets
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Richard Bistrong
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Eric Carlson
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How Slow Can Pfizer Go?

It was November 2011 when pharma giant Pfizer first said it had reached agreement in principle with the SEC and DOJ to resolve improper payment matters outside the United States. ‘We anticipate entering into and announcing final agreements in the fourth quarter,’ Pfizer said.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Palazzolo then reported that ‘people familiar with the matter’ said Pfizer would pay ‘more than $60 million as part of a settlement after being charged with accepting bribes to win overseas business.’

(We had asked in 2009 if Pfizer might become an FCPA enforcement target. It had just paid $2.3 billion in civil and criminal penalties for unlawful prescription drug promotions in the U.S.)

After Pfizer’s announcement, the fourth quarter of 2011 came and went. So did the first and second quarters of 2012. No news.

The DOJ and SEC haven’t commented.

Pfizer hasn’t explained the delay. Were there sticking points about the terms of settlement? Are the feds satisfied with the scope of Pfizer’s internal investigation and self disclosure? Has the company fingered the individuals responsible for alleged illegal conduct overseas? Or maybe everyone at the DOJ and SEC have been too busy for the past nine months. It’s anyone’s guess.

What’s Pfizer saying now? Not much.

Here’s the full FCPA disclosure from its May 2012 10-Q (pdf here):

The Company has voluntarily provided the DOJ and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with information concerning potentially improper payments made by certain Pfizer and Wyeth subsidiaries in connection with certain sales activities outside the U.S. In recent discussions, we have reached agreements-in-principle with the SEC staff and with the DOJ, and we are in the process of finalizing a resolution of these matters. In addition, certain potentially improper payments and other matters are the subject of investigations by government authorities in certain foreign countries.

FCPA settlements still sound close at hand (‘we are . . . finalizing a resolution’).

But Pfizer has now stopped predicting when that might happen.

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