Johnson & Johnson settles U.S. bribery charges

By Parija Kavilanz, senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday charged Johnson & Johnson with bribing doctors in several countries to prescribe its drugs and medical devices.

The company has agreed to pay $70 million to settle the charges, without admitting or denying the allegations.

This is the latest setback amid mounting problems for the pharmaceutical giant. Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ, Fortune 500), drugmaking arm McNeil Consumer Healthcare is already under federal supervision due to numerous recalls of its Tylenol and other non-prescription medicines over the past year.

J&J also faces numerous lawsuits files by patients who received defective hip replacement devices manufactured by its DePuy Orthopaedics unit.

The SEC alleges that since at least 1998, J&J subsidiaries paid bribes to doctors in Greece to select its surgical implants, to doctors and hospital administrators in Poland to win contracts to doctors in Romania to prescribe J&J drugs.

The agency said J&J subsidiaries also paid kickbacks to Iraq to obtain 19 contracts under the United Nations Oil for Food Program.

J&J subsidiaries, employees and agents used slush funds, sham civil contracts with doctors, and off-shore companies in the Isle of Man to carry out the bribery. These acts violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the agency said.

"The message in this is plain. Any competitive advantage gained through corruption is a mirage," Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement, said in a statement.

"J&J chose profit margins over compliance with the law by acquiring a private company for the purpose of paying bribes, and using sham contracts, off-shore companies, and slush funds to cover its tracks," he said.

J&J said it hopes to reach a settlement of a related investigation by the U.K. Serious Fraud Office in the coming days.

J&J CEO William Weldon said the company reported the improper payments to the government more than four years ago and has taken full responsibility.

"We are deeply disappointed by the unacceptable conduct that led to these violations," he said, adding that the company is committed to making sure this doesn't happen again." To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,279.74 13.75 0.08%
Nasdaq 4,579.79 -13.64 -0.30%
S&P 500 2,010.40 -0.96 -0.05%
Treasuries 2.59 -0.04 -1.60%
Data as of 4:37pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Yahoo! Inc 40.93 -1.16 -2.74%
Microsoft Corp 47.52 0.84 1.80%
Bank of America Corp... 16.95 -0.09 -0.53%
Oracle Corp 39.80 -1.75 -4.21%
Facebook Inc 77.91 0.91 1.18%
Data as of Sep 19

Sections

7,000 Ravens fans traded Ray Rice jerseys for one with another player's name. The team gave vouchers after it ran out of replacement jerseys. More

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given more money than many western nations. More

As Occupy Wall Street goes on its debt-abolishing tear, thousands of people across the country are begging them to forgive their loans. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.