Pfizer's Lawyers Play Musical Chairs in Wake of Bextra Settlement

Last Updated Sep 23, 2009 2:51 PM EDT

Pfizer's lawyers have found themselves playing musical chairs since the $2.3 billion Bextra settlement. The general counsel's office has been stripped of part of its compliance role under a new corporate integrity agreement with the government (stemming from the Bextra scandal). More recently, senior corporate counsel Paulette Morgan left Pfizer to join Nixon Peabody as counsel.
Nixon Peabody spokesman Brian Moynihan said Morgan's move from Pfizer is unrelated to the government's charges against the company and the subsequent settlement.
The post-Bextra compliance arrangement with the government means less work for the general counsel's office because it loses a compliance role. Legal Week:
Instead, the chief compliance officer at the world's largest drug maker will report directly to the chief executive. The move is required by Pfizer's corporate integrity agreement with the office of the inspector general of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), part of the company's civil and criminal settlement with the Department of Justice.
The change is intended to eliminate conflicts of interest, and prevent Pfizer's in-house lawyers from reviewing or editing reports required by the agreement, said Lewis Morris, chief counsel for the inspector general's office. Officials at Pfizer did not respond to requests for comment.
"The lawyers tell you whether you can do something, and compliance tells you whether you should," Morris added. "We think upper management should hear both arguments."
Of course, it's not a complete sidestep of Pfizer's lawyers. CEO Jeffrey Kindler was, after all, general counsel to Pfizer before he became its chief.