From at least 2009 to 2013, employees and agents of Novartis subsidiaries, Sandoz China and Novartis China, allegedly engaged in transactions and provided things of value to doctors and other health care providers to increase Novartis’ sales in China. Things of value allegedly took varied forms, and included gifts, purely sightseeing or recreational travel disguised as educational conferences and other business activities, entertainment, and favors for families of doctors and other health care providers in China.
Employees and managers of the Chinese subsidiaries allegedly attempted to conceal the true nature of the transactions through use of complicit third party vendors. Novartis China allegedly retained numerous third party travel and event planning vendors to arrange the venue, food, entertainment, flights, hotels and transit in relation to their improper marketing activities. They also attempted to conceal the bribes by recording the improper payments on the books and records as legitimate sales, marketing and promotion expenses. For example, sale representatives of Sandoz China allegedly funded cash and gifts provided to high prescribing healthcare professionals through false expense reports approved by subsidiary's management. The false entries were later consolidated to Novartis' financial statements.
On 18 September 2013, Alcon, Novartis' eye-care division, opened an investigation into allegations that members of its Chinese staff bribed doctors at hundreds of hospitals in China, the second time the company has looked into possible problems at its China operations in as many months. Alcon employees allegedly paid doctors through a middleman for market surveys for clinical trials that never took place, according to the Wall Street Journal. The report said the payments were made to doctors at more than 200 hospitals across China, using funding meant for clinical studies.
03 April 2018: An employee of Novartis' affiliate in China has alleged that the company has engaged in bribery in the form of kick-backs and money laundering. Allegedly, Novartis held fake academic activities and paid clinical public doctors kickbacks to boost sales of its new drugs such as benazepril and DIOVAN (valsartan) tablets. No additional information is available at this time.
Novartis has launched an investigation into the claim.
Novartis allegedly paid EUR 28 million (approximately USD 30.4 million) to doctors and public officials to promote the company's pharmaceutical products.
On 7 April 2017, the justice minister was quoted as saying that "thousands" of doctors and officials had been bribed by Novartis. According to media reports, two Novartis executives provided documents to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission showing over 4,000 payments to doctors, including doctors working in the public sector.
In April 2018, two protected witnesses reported that ten politicians, including former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, EU migration commissioner and the former Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, and the central bank governor Yannis Stournaras received bribes during the period 2006 - 2015 from Novartis in exchange for promoting Novartis’ plan to enlarge market share in Greece and helping Novartis to secure inflated prices for its products even though cheaper alternatives were available.
The kickbacks were usually hidden in overpriced company invoices for medical congresses and trips, but money is suspected to have also occasionally been given directly, witnesses say.
Novartis advised that it is cooperating with US and Greek authorities and is conducting an internal audit of its own.
In October 2014, Poland's anti-corruption bureau charged two executives of Novartis with bribery. The executives allegedly gave a health fund official a tourist trip worth more than USD 1,000 in exchange for backing the sale of a particular drug. Both defendants pleaded guilty and are waiting to be sentenced.
Between January 2011 and early 2016, Novartis Korea employees utilized medical journals to provide inappropriate economic benefits, in form of improper rebates and kickbacks, amounting to 2.59 billion won (USD 2.34 million) in exchange for using Novartis' products.
Novartis Korea allegedly funded academic events organized outwardly by third party medical publications and provided improper benefits to participating doctors disguised as payments for attendance and article contributions.
Turkish unit of Novartis allegedly paid Alp Aydin Consultancy, Turkish consulting firm, USD 290,000 plus costs during 2013 and 2014 to win about USD 85 million in business advantages.
Novartis allegedly gained USD 20 million from Aydin's ability to have Novartis' new drugs for multiple sclerosis, chronic lung disease and juvenile arthritis added to government-run hospital prescription lists. Novartis also allegedly benefited from advantageous pricing decisions and a special import permit for a drug with an expired manufacturing certificate. Furthermore, Novartis allegedly gained USD 50 million by avoiding international pricing comparison and thus price cuts by obtaining Turkish officials' approval to rename its drugs Ilaris and Gilenya as Ibecta and Fingya.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce of China began investigating Novartis on 14 August 2013 for bribery and corruption related to medical devices and pharmaceutical drugs.
As of 07 February 2018, it appears the investigation efforts are still ongoing.
In December 2016, a judicial probe was ordered in Greece after the country's justice minister responded to media reports alleging bribes by Novartis to doctors and public officials. As part of the probe, Greek corruption prosecutors have raided the Athens offices of Novartis and have requested the US judicial authorities for assistance. About 178 people in Greece have been questioned as part of the investigation.
On 1 January 2017, a manager for Novartis who had been questioned over the alleged corruption attempted suicide in Athens.
28 March 2017: Greece's prosecutor resigned and claimed that she felt threatened by corrupt state officials who were trying to quash her investigation of Novartis.
On 7 April 2017, the justice minister was quoted as saying that "thousands" of doctors and officials were bribed by Novartis to promote its products. Anti-corruption prosecutors have visited Novartis' location near Athens to gather evidence.
Novartis has stated that it was cooperating with Greek authorities.
06 February 2018: Greek Magistrates have launched a corruption prosecution against an (unnamed) manager at Novartis's Greek branch, who was banned from leaving the country.
06 February 2018: Greek anti-corruption prosecutors have asked parliament to provide files relating to the alleged Novartis bribery scandal to aid them in an investigation of the involvement of unnamed Greek ex-ministers who were in office between 2006 and 2015.
22 February 2018: Ten Greek government officials, including former prime minister Antonis Samaras, have been implicated in the Novartis bribery scandal. Greece’s parliament established a special committee to investigate the politicians and whether any had received bribes from Novartis. All politicians have denied the allegations, claiming that the current government is using the allegations to politically tarnish their reputations.
27 April 2018: a parliamentary committee determined that Greece's parliament has no jurisdiction to investigate the role of the ten politicians alleged to have accepted bribes from Novartis.
22 February 2018 - Former conservative prime minister Antonis Samaras has filed a civil suit against current Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras, accusing him of attempting to tarnish opposition politicians' reputations by wrongly implicating them in the Novartis bribery claims.
April 2018 - Greece's central bank governor Yannis Stournaras sued two protected witnesses for perjury and defamation over the witness testimony claiming their receipt of bribes from Novartis. Avramopoulos, who was Greek health minister in 2006-2009, has also sued the witnesses.
In 2013, Novartis initiated an internal investigation into the allegations in Turkey. Novartis announced that the investigation concluded in 2014 with findings that unsubstantiated the allegations.
In April 2016, Novartis suspended then Novartis Korea's CEO Moon, Hak-sun from his position.
On 22 February 2016, the Seoul Western District Prosecutors' Office raided Novartis offices in search of evidence the company provided bribes to local doctors.
The South Korean authorities confiscated various documents, including account books, in order to determine whether rebates the drug maker offered physicians may have actually been bribes. The investigation was confirmed and disclosed by Novartis in its SEC Form 6-K filed on 21 April 2016.
On 9 August 2016, the Seoul Western District Prosecutors' Office announced that six former and current Novartis Korea officials, including former CEO Moon, Hak-sun, were indicted over allegations in South Korea. In an official statement, Novartis Korea rejected the allegation, indicating that alleged conduct would not have been sanctioned by the most senior management at Novartis Korea. Novartis Korea further stated that Novartis is implementing a remediation plan in South Korea based on the findings from its internal investigations.
Following the indictment of its former and current Novartis Korea officials, media reported that South Korean prosecutors have asked the government to suspend Novartis’ operations in South Korea.
27 April 2017: South Korea fined Swiss drugmaker Novartis 55.1 billion won (USD 48.80MM) for offering doctors kickbacks to recommend the company’s drugs, and also suspended insurance coverage for some of its drugs.
In early December 2017, Korea's National Tax Service opened a tax investigation into Novartis Korea. Novartis Korea has explained that the investigation is a “regular tax inspection that takes place every four to five years.” However, as the probe is focusing on the company's spending records, the inspection may be related to the firm’s bribery scandal for which a trial is still pending.
On 16 October 2014, both executives of Novartis pleaded guilty in a bribery prosecution in Poland and are waiting to be sentenced.
On 1 April 2016, the Ankara chief prosecutor's office said it had launched an investigation into the Turkish unit of Novartis.
In March 2016, Turkey's Health Ministry announced that it has launched an investigation into the allegations in Turkey.
On 11 August 2016, a Turkey Health ministry official, without providing further details, confirmed that the investigation was ongoing.
As of 07 February 2018, it appears the investigation is still ongoing.
In 2014, Turkey Ministry of Labour and Social Security conducted its investigation into the Turkish allegations but concluded that all allegations were unsubstantiated and no action was taken by the Ministry.
According to media reports, the SEC and DOJ questioned two Novartis executives about alleged bribery in Greece.
In July 2017, Alcon confirmed receipt of a subpoena from the DOJ and SEC regarding its businesses in Asia and Russia.
On 23 March 2016, Novartis agreed to settle charges concerning its pharmaceutical operations in China with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC"). In its Cease-and-Desist Order, the SEC noted that Novartis violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the FCPA by failing to devise and maintain sufficient accounting controls to detect and prevent the making of improper payments to foreign officials by Sandoz China and Novartis China. Without admitting or denying the charges, Novartis agreed to pay disgorgement of USD 21,579,217, prejudgment interest of USD 1,470,887, and civil penalty of USD 2,000,000. Novartis also agreed to provide status reports to the SEC on its "remediation and implementation of anti-corruption compliance measures" for two years.
A former employee of Novartis in China, following resignation from Novartis, went to the Chinese labor authorities and reported that he had been bribing doctors and other health care providers to boost sales of Novartis drugs in China. In a later interview with a Chinese business magazine, 21st Century Business Herald, he publicly alleged that Novartis bribes medical providers in China.
Following the whistleblower allegations, Novartis initiated an internal investigation through the company's Business Practices Office.
An anonymous whistleblower sent a 5,000-word email to Novartis Chief Executive Joe Jimenez and Srikant Datar, chairman of its audit and compliance committee, alleging Novartis of paying bribes in Turkey through a consultaing firm, Alp Aydin Consultancy, to secure business advantages.
The 2018 allegations of bribery in the form of Kick-backs and money laundering in China were brought to light by an employee of Novartis' Chinese affiliate.