On Monday, President Obama nominated former Procter and Gamble (P&G) President and Chief Executive Robert McDonald to be the new Veteran Affairs secretary. McDonald retired from P&G in 2013 after it came to light that directors were “dissatisfied with his performance” and had been searching for his replacement as early as July 2012. He will replace acting VA secretary Sloan Gibson, who replaced Eric Shinseki after he resigned at the end of May amidst a firestorm of problems with the agency.
Shinseki’s resignation came after it was reported that at least 40 veterans died waiting for their appointments in the Phoenix VA Health Care System and that officials there had doctored wait times to help hide problems, which led to the discovery of delay issues in at least seven other cities.
Instead of appointing someone with actual medical care experience, the president has gone to the world of big business, trying to find someone who can properly, and ethically, run the VA. Given P&G’s history of scandals and class-action lawsuits, McDonald’s appointment might be a lateral move.
In just the past 15 years, the company has been sued twice for false advertising: once in 2002 over the heartburn medicine Prilosec’s claim that it could “cure” heartburn in a day, and again in 2013 in a class action suit over the advertised benefits of Crest Sensitivity Treatment and Protection Toothpaste.
Proctor and Gamble, along with Unilever, were fined a combined $456 million in April 2011 by the European Commission for price fixing laundry detergent in eight countries. The fines were discounted by 10 percent after both companies admitted to running a cartel.
Possibly the most troubling of all of P&G’s unethical behavior involved their osteoporosis drug, Actonel. In early 2006, senior medical faculty member at Sheffield University in England Dr. Aubrey Blumsohn, told Congressional officials and journalists how the company had engaged in data concealment and manipulation in order to skew the results of a study of the drug.
While under contract to collect Actonel data, Blumsohn was repeatedly denied access to specific data for 18 months by P&G, despite the fact it was publishing ghost-written abstracts “falsely implying the therapeutic equivalence of Actonel to Merck’s Fosamax.”
Once he was finally given access to that data, Blumsohn realized that graphs depicting the drug’s effectiveness had omitted 40 percent of one data set. P&G officials told him that if the additional data were included the study would have favored Fosamax.
Blumsohn was offered a substantial sum of money to leave his position, upon the condition he remain silent about the data manipulation. He refused and was then suspended by the University for speaking out to the BBC.
In order to fix a problem with the VA’s doctored documents and falsified data, President Obama has nominated the former CEO of a company which doctored documents and falsified data. If Obama wants to do right by the veterans who depend on the VA for their health care, gambling on leaders from corrupt corporate America could cause more problems than the VA is currently dealing with.