NEW YORK (CNNfn) - ICN Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Friday it would "vigorously defend" itself against allegations to be brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission of possible improprieties in a 1994 sale of stock by the company's flamboyant chairman, former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic.
ICN Pharmaceuticals issued its statement Friday after receiving a letter from the Philadelphia District Office of the SEC alerting the company of its plans to recommend that the commission authorize a full-scale civil action against ICN.
The latest sally comes nearly three years after ICN, a manufacturer of prescription and non-prescription drugs in 60 countries, disclosed that it had come under SEC scrutiny for possible securities fraud.
The commission's investigation centered on concerns that ICN - and Panic in particular - violated parts of the securities act by engaging in insider trading based on "false or misleading statements or omitted material facts" relating to the Hepatitis C new drug application from June 1994 through February 1995.
The SEC did not single out Panic, but instead referred more ambiguously to "the company, persons or entities associated with it."
In its statement Friday, ICN said it had "fully cooperated" with the commission and planned to continue doing so.
But it added: "If the matter cannot be resolved by the parties and the commission, the company and Mr. Panic will vigorously defend any civil action that may brought."
Friday's development came less than six months after ICN emerged from its last legal imbroglio. Last August, a U.S. Federal District Court jury sitting in New York rejected claims of securities fraud brought against the company by a class of shareholders.
The suit focused on public statements the shareholders said ICN had made in 1986 and 1987 relating to its proprietary drug, Virazole. A mistrial was declared when jurors failed to reach a verdict on the remaining claims.
ICN makes markets and distributes more than 600 over-the-counter products and more than 55,000 diagnostic and biotechnology research products in North and Latin America, Western and Eastern Europe and the Far East.
For the quarter ended September 30, 1997, the company posted record sales of $177 million, up 12 percent, from $158 million in the comparable period a year earlier.