Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) CEO William Weldon said the $70 million in foreign bribery settlements his company just made “are not representative of Johnson & Johnson employees around the world who do what is honest and right every day.” But J&J’s internal emails, plus the U.K. Serious Fraud Office’s records, indicate that J&J management knew as early as 1999 that it was making improper payments to Greek sales agents, and that money was disappearing into what it called a “black hole” in Europe.
Yet J&J later acquired the company that operated that “black hole” in order to maintain its illegal sales relationships in Greece, according to the SEC’s complaint. And although the SEC praised J&J’s cooperation in its probe, J&J took eight years to initially inform the SEC of its problems.
To give you an idea of the scale of J&J’s “not representative” activities, the violations occurred between 1998 and 2006 in Greece, Poland, Romania, and Iraq; and involved the following units of J&J: three units of medical device company DePuy, J&J Poland, Janssen-Cilag Europe, Cilag AG in Switzerland, and Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V. in Belgium. J&J paid “commissions” to various local agents of between 10 and 35 percent to do business in those countries.