Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How J&J's Alex Gorsky Tried to Negotiate a Smaller DOJ Fine

The Department of Justice (DOJ) just updated its commemorative poster highlighting the now seven highest multi-million/billion dollar settlements that drug companies have agreed to pay for inappropriately, and in some cases illegally, promoting prescription drugs.

The latest addition to the poster is Johnson and Johnson, which will pay $2.2 billion to the U.S. government to end civil and criminal investigations into kickbacks to pharmacists and the marketing of pharmaceuticals for off-label uses.
-- Pharma Marketing Blog (see here)

Johnson and Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky (on phone): Is Eric there, please?

Receptionist: May I ask who’s calling?

Gorsky: Alex Gorsky.

Receptionist: Did you say, “Alex” as in “Alexandra”?

Gorsky: Yes, but just plain Alex.

Receptionist: Please hold.

(A beat as Gorsky is placed on hold. Music is heard—the Clash’s rendition of “I Fought the Law.” After a minute or so . . .)

Attorney General Eric Holder: This is Eric.

Gorsky: Eric, it’s Alex Gorsky.

Holder: Alex. Hey. That’s weird. My assistant said there was a girl named Alexandra on the phone.

Gorsky: No just Alex! There are a lot of guys who are named Alex, O.K.?

Holder: Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, right?

Gorsky: Exactly.

Holder: Yeah. We may be investigating him too. Just sayin’

Gorsky: So listen. I think we should meet.

Holder: What, like, for dinner?

Gorsky: No. For a business meeting.

Holder: Oh.

Gorsky: Why? Would you ever want to have dinner?

Holder: It doesn’t have to be dinner. A walk would be nice. Maybe a coffee?

Gorsky: Both sound great. Let me tell you the reason I’m calling. A few of the guys over here—the board, for example—we’re a little concerned about some . . . money stuff. Like, that maybe you guys are still thinking of, uh, bringing charges against us.

Holder: Yeah, we’re definitely planning on doing that.

Gorsky: Huh. And this is something you feel strongly about?

Holder: Pretty strongly, yeah.

Gorsky: I see. And you have, like, evidence and stuff?

Holder: I can’t really talk about that, but yeah . . . like, boatloads.

Gorsky: Can I ask you a question? So you’re definitely suing us?

Holder: Can’t really talk about it.

Gorsky: How do you like being a lawyer?

Holder: I like it. But I can’t say I love it. You know?

Gorsky: Totally.

Holder: Law school was a fallback. I had no idea what I wanted to do.

Gorsky: Same. No sane person becomes a pharmaceutical company CEO.

Holder: Is there a lot of science in your job?

Gorsky: So much. And I’m terrible at science.

Holder: I know.

Gorsky: Funny. What do you call twenty-five attorneys buried up to their chins in cement?

Holder: Here it comes . . .

Gorsky: Not enough cement.

Holder: You guys paid all the taxes on foreign profits, right?

(Both laugh really hard.)

Gorsky: Sure did. So listen, do you ever . . .

Holder: What?

Gorsky: Do you ever . . . do you ever look out the window in the late afternoon and just get . . . sad? Like, for no reason?

Holder: Almost every day.

Gorsky: I’ll walk around the office some days and just see people crying at their desks for no outward reason.

Holder: Same here.

Gorsky: Total change of subject, but would you ever want to go camping?

Holder: That was weird, because you read my mind. I have a two-man tent and, like, fourteen canteens.

(Both laugh for a long time.)

Gorsky: Now, in terms of a fine . . .

Holder: Yeah.

Gorsky: I was talking with some of the guys here and we were thinking, like, a million maybe would be good.

Holder: Huh.

Gorsky: Were you thinking that would be a good number?

Holder: No-o-o.

Gorsky: Oh. What were you thinking, hypothetically?

Holder: Hypothetically? Not less than Two.

Gorsky: Two. And that . . . that would be as in million?

Holder: No, BILLION. As in two-point-two billion.

Gorsky: Of course. Because a two million . . . I mean, my Park Avenue apartment is worth more than that . . . Anyway. Wow. So two-point-two billion.

Holder: Yeah.

(A long beat.)

Gorsky: So you feel like we were . . . were very bad, the guys and me, at the pharma company here.

Holder: Pretty much, yeah.

Gorsky: Huh. That’s so weird, because we weren’t thinking that at all. We were thinking, you know, we made a lot of money and that was, like, good.

Holder: Interesting. I guess for me it’s how you made the money?

Gorsky: Not sure I understand. Why would that matter?

Holder: Well, over here it’s kind of the . . . what’s the word . . . the essence of the whole thing.

Gorsky: Like . . . rules and stuff.

Holder: Exactly.

Gorsky: Like that . . . what do you call it . . . Cosmic Law?

Holder: The federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Gorsky: Yeah, that one. That’s funny, because we didn’t really take that very seriously, especially with regard to “off-label” drug promotion. We actually have a copy of it up on a wall and people kind of point at it and laugh, because, I mean, it’s just funny.

Holder: I think that’s where we differ a bit.

Gorsky: Interesting. O.K., then. Well . . . I should probably talk with some of the guys.

Holder: Talk with the guys.

Gorsky: Camping soon?

Holder: Can’t wait. Talk soon, Alex.

[This spoof is modified from a New Yorker magazine "Shouts & Mummers" piece by John Kennedy. In that piece, Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan’s chief executive, is on the phone with Eric Holder.]


  1. Johnson & Johnson is a great company with a high sense of moral responsibility and integrity. The misdeeds of a few does not detract from the excellence of the company overall.

  2. Anonymous2:31 PM

    You are on risperdal, dear!


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