Friday, December 10, 2010

Bad Behavior Squared

Besides The Guardian and other mainstream newspapers, Foreign Policy magazine has also been reading through the most recent batch of Wikileaks cables and publishing what it finds on a special section of its website called Wikileaked.

Today, they published this little gem. I think the title says it all: "More stellar corporate behavior in Nigeria". (Newsflash: Diplomats are jaded, cynical bunch.)

This brief article discusses the behavior of Pfizer in the aftermath of its illegal clinical trial of the Trovan antibiotic during a meningitis epidemic in 1996 in Kano, Nigeria. It was an illegal clinical trial because the parents of the children had no idea that Pfizer was using their children as human test subjects and therefore had no way to give informed consent. Of the 100 children given the antibiotic, five children died and dozens of others were left maimed for life due to liver complications. Pfizer's actions would later serve as the basis of John le Carré's novel The Constant Gardener.

There was a great deal of legal wrangling in both Nigerian and US courts and Pfizer finally reached a $75 million out-of-court settlement in early 2009.

The leaked cable, however, discusses how Pfizer tried to intimidate the Nigerian Attorney General to drop his legal inquiry by instigating a smear campaign:

According to Liggeri [Pfizer's manager for Nigeria], Pfizer had hired investigators to uncover corruption links to Federal Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa to expose him and put pressure on him to drop the federal cases. He said Pfizer’s investigators were passing this information to local media, XXXXXXXXXXXX. A series of damaging articles detailing Aondoakaa’s “alleged” corruption ties were published in February and March. Liggeri contended that Pfizer had much more damaging information on Aondoakaa and that Aondoakaa’s cronies were pressuring him to drop the suit for fear of further negative articles.

I'm not particularly shocked that a multinational corporation would try to interfere with the affairs of a sovereign government because the corporation wasn't getting its way. I am far more shocked that a corporate executive would so casually discuss his company's bad behavior with a diplomat and neither would feel remorse.

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