Diane Ponte, an ex-paralegal for France-based pharmaceutical company Sanofi, claimed last year that the company had paid $30 million in alleged kickbacks to promote its diabetes drugs. Only a year earlier, Sanofi agreed to settle with the U.S. federal government for $100 million in a lawsuit alleging similar fraudulent activity. Ponte claims that she was pressured to approve contracts worth $34 million that Sanofi had with Deloitte and Accenture. She claims that the contracts included illegal incentives intended to “induce customers, including physicians, hospitals and/or retail pharmacy programs such as Walgreens and Rite Aid to influence the prescribing of drugs and/or improperly ‘switch’ from selling other manufacturers’ drugs.” Contact a Boston Whistleblower Lawyer Today.
Sanofi Attorneys Alleged to Have Destroyed Important Documents
In response to Ponte’s allegations, Sanofi referred to the whistleblower as a, “disgruntled former employee who is opportunistically attacking our company.” However, in addition to her claims of illegal kickbacks, Ponte also claims that Sanofi attorneys deliberately destroyed important documents to avoid those documents being revealed during the discovery process. Discovery is the process by which civil litigants exchange evidence and documentation relevant to a case. John Bennett, an attorney working for Sanofi, denied these allegations saying that Ponte’s claims are “false, scandalous and unsupported by any evidence.” However, this round of federal healthcare law violations seems to be more of a trend than a fluke for Sanofi. In addition to the $100 million settlement with the federal government in 2012, Sanofi was also fined 28 million euros in connection with a bribery case in Germany.
Federal Class-Action Suit Claims Sanofi Inflated Stock Prices
Ponte claims that she was fired in 2014 in retaliation for reporting Sanofi’s kickback scheme. Her whistleblowing resulted in an internal probe at the pharmaceutical company. It appears that the kickbacks were not the company’s only violations of healthcare laws. A former contractor also claims that a Sanofi executive pressured her into entering incorrect purchase order codes so that Accenture and Deloitte could get paid. In these instances, the contracts hadn’t yet been approved by Sanofi’s legal department, but the false codes allowed payment to move forward anyhow. Sanofi shareholders have also filed a lawsuit claiming that the company inflated its stock price and misled investors. Evidence shows that Sanofi likely paid millions of dollars in fraudulent payments to Accenture and Deloitte. Whistleblowers claim that the consulting companies served as middlemen in the scheme. However, Accenture and Deloitte both deny any wrongdoing in the case. Continue reading