Two pharmaceutical executives are headed to prison for orchestrating a kickback scheme worth multimillions of dollars. Ring of Fire’s Mike Papantonio and Farron Cousins discusses this.

To learn more about this topic, visit AL.Law


Mike Papantonio: Two pharmaceutical executives are headed to prison for orchestrating a kickback scheme worth multimillions of dollars. When I saw this case develop, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, you have the regular exact, Valeant of course. The history of Valeant is deplorable. They’re the people who were actually tagged for the run up, for price gouging pharmaceuticals that were necessary to live. They would go out and they would buy companies where they had a pharmaceutical that was a life or death kind of pharmaceutical. You had to have it. It wasn’t an option. You had to have this to live.

Valeant would go in and buy that and then jack up the price of that, I think it’s 20,000 times, one of the drugs that they bought. It’s just like pharma boy. It was the same kind of story only Valeant got away with it. The people in charge of Valeant got away with it. Pharma boy went to prison for jacking it up, which I’m glad he’s there. I’m glad it all worked out. But I looked at this case, and I wanted to scream, and I wanted to say, “What about what the opioid industry has done?”

Now Holder had a chance in 2014. I don’t know if you know this story. I think this story is remarkable. Eric Holder was confronted with the idea in 2014 that you had DEA agents that clearly showed that the pharmaceutical industry, three distributors, McKesson … Well, it focused on McKesson at first so let’s just talk about McKesson. McKesson had engaged in something that was no less than a drug cabal. I mean they were pushing drugs through this system that was absolutely a drug cabal. The DEA agents that did years of investigation, went to Eric Holder in the justice department and said, “We got them. Let’s prosecute them. Let’s hit them for a billion dollars and let’s perp walk them.” Okay?

Eric holder, a very interesting story here. Holder was with Covington & Burling before he became the attorney general. The lawyer who was representing McKesson was also with, you got it, Covington & Burling. So all these secret closed door deals start taking place and all of a sudden the DEA agents are screaming, “Why aren’t you prosecuting these criminals?” I mean raising Cain in the media about it. This Covington Burling lawyer, who worked by the way, actually worked with Eric Holder at one point, makes a decision that, “No, we’re going to hold a tight line.” They end up having to pay $150 million dollar fine, which was nothing.

Farron Cousins: Right.

Mike Papantonio: The chief executive was making $680 million in compensation. Absolutely no involvement in the justice system. So I look at this case, Farron, and it’s like the justice system saying, “Oh yeah. We’re still out there. We’re doing our job.” What’s your take on that?

Farron Cousins: Well, what’s fun about this is I saw the headline. I got all excited. I thought, “Oh good. We’ve got some pharmaceutical executives going to jail for screwing over consumers but that’s actually not even what necessarily happened here.

Mike Papantonio: No it’s not. It’s not.

Farron Cousins: Because you’ve got Valeant and then this other group, Philidor Prescription Services, a mail order, get your prescriptions here. Valeant wanted to buy Philidor and Philidor didn’t want to sell. They were hoping other buyers would come in. So you had the executive of Valeant feeding information to Philidor.

Mike Papantonio: Inside information.

Farron Cousins: Yeah, inside information. Then doing the same thing with Valeant. The two guys, one executive here, one executive there feeding each other information. They set up a couple dummy shell companies and bank accounts. They would wire each other money. It’s essentially money laundering. But at the end of the day they got busted for it, but it was screwing over investors, not the public.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. It wasn’t about consumers.

Farron Cousins: Right.

Mike Papantonio: You know you look at this story and you go, “Oh my God. Finally, the department of justice is doing their job and looking out for consumers.” No. It had to do with one company screwing over another company by way of insider trading. Every time you land on one of those department of justice … First of all, it has to be the kind of case where a moron can’t lose the case, before the department of justice will take it. Second of all, it’s never going to end up where it’s really about consumers.

If it’s about consumers, we’re going to fine them. You know like McKesson got fined for right now what have we got, 190 people a day dying from opioid overdoses, we’re going to fine them. Nobody’s going to perp walk. We’re just going to go about business. This department of justice, this story is the most under-reported story. This relationship between Eric Holder, who was the attorney general running the entire justice department, and the lawyers who were also with Covington Burling working out the sweetheart deal with McKesson.

Farron Cousins: Well you know with Eric Holder too, and we had talked about this, Covington Burling was also one of the biggest representatives of Wall Street bankers. So that’s why when Obama came into office and everybody said, “Great. We’re going to get some prosecutions here. Eric Holder, he’s this great guy,” nothing happened.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah I’m hoping-

Farron Cousins: Everybody sat there just waiting you know.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah, “Let’s get a perp walk.” And then where’s Eric Holder now? He’s back with Covington Burling, has a suite they say is the entire floor almost with this organization. He’s the ex-attorney general. Nothing ever changes. It’s always about just the race to the bottom.

Farron Cousins: And you’ll only go to jail like these guys did, and the pharma bro if your crime is to take money away from rich people because these executive here, the investors, these are one percenters, one hundred percent. They were having to pay out more money, so I don’t even know why they bother to call this a kickback scheme. This is insider trading. This is money laundering. This is a kickback-

Mike Papantonio: What about … We got about 30 seconds. What has to happen here? I mean at some point doesn’t the department of justice have to do their damn job?

Farron Cousins: They absolutely do.

Mike Papantonio: First of all they got to hire some competent prosecutors that aren’t afraid of their shadow, and they have to go after these folks, and they can’t let politics get involved. How would you solve it?

Farron Cousins: They have to stop looking and hiring people from the corporate defense firms. That is job number one. Get consumer lawyers. Get plaintiffs lawyers. I know of a lot of conferences they could go attend. Pick anybody out of the room and they would do a better job than what we’ve had for the last 20 years.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. It is deplorable.

Farron Cousins: Yeah.

Mike Papantonio: It is a deplorable department of justice. Eric Holder was a train wreck.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.