Teva to pay U.S. government $519 million over foreign bribery charges

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Teva Pharmaceutical Industries TEVA.TA agreed to pay more than $519 million to settle U.S. criminal and civil allegations that the company bribed overseas officials to gain business for its medications, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Thursday.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries' Jerusalem oral solid dosage plant (OSD) is seen December 21, 2011. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

The company paid millions of dollars in bribes to officials in Mexico, Russia and Ukraine to promote its products such as its blockbuster multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, the Justice Department said.

Teva will pay a $283 million penalty to settle Foreign Corrupt Practices Act allegations with the Justice Department. The company will also forfeit $236 million in profits plus interest to resolve a civil investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Teva’s Russia subsidiary pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Teva admitted that its executives bribed officials in order to win more than $65 million in inflated, “corrupt” profits in Russia.

Teva also admitted to bribing a Ukrainian government official in order to gain approval for the sale of the company’s drugs.

The briberies took place for more than a decade, according to the Justice Department.

The SEC said that all told the company’s bribe scheme brought the company more than $200 million in illicit profits.

Teva said that since 2012 it had taken several steps to address issues of governance, including naming a global head of compliance and ending problematic business relationships.

Teva, the world’s biggest generic drugmaker, said none of the workers involved in the improper payments were any longer with the company, and that it had replaced its entire leadership team in Russia in 2013.

The improper conduct did not involve U.S. sales, Teva said.

The Act makes it a crime to bribe foreign government officials to win business regardless of whether the payments are made directly or through other means such as extravagant entertainment or footing the bill for international travel.

The company, whose shares are listed on the New York and Tel Aviv stock exchanges, must also retain an independent corporate monitor for at least three years, the SEC said.

Reuters reported earlier this month that Teva was investigating claims by an anonymous tipster that the company bribed state healthcare workers in Romania.

Teva’s shares were up 2.2 percent at $37.16 in New York.

Reporting by Joel Schectman in Washington and Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Ted Kerr and Phil Berlowitz