See No Evil, Hear No Evil… James Murdoch and GlaxoSmithKline

“Of course, one may also argue that having a board member with experience in skullduggery has its benefits, but is that really a virtue?” Ed Silverman (Pharmalot)

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is crumbling amidst the scandal of phone hacking and the collapse of the tabloid newspaper, the News Of The World; a controversy which has dominated news headlines across the globe. Meanwhile, questions and flags are being raised about his son, and heir apparent, James Murdoch, and his questionable association with British pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline.

I am sure it has helped GSK enormously having Murdoch on board. If you can control the media, its influence, and the output of its journalists, then you can control the propaganda. Well done GSK- another spectacular coup for you and the company.

Although, perhaps this demonic pact will backfire now, considering the entire British public is horrified, disgusted and appalled at anything that stinks and reeks of Murdoch?

Interesting Times Folks..
Interesting times…

The Edge
Richard Northedge takes on corporate finance

What is James Murdoch doing on the GlaxoSmithKline board?
Nevermind whether James Murdoch should remain chairman of British Sky Broadcasting, how long before someone asks why he is on the board of GlaxoSmithKlein Plc (LON:GSK)?

Unnoticed amid all the headlines about Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is that his favourite son is a non-executive director of Britain’s biggest pharmaceutical company.

And if television is a business regulated by governments, so much more so are drug companies – not just in Britain, but globally. Including America. Pharm companies cannot afford to court controversy in their governance.

James Murdoch has been a Glaxo main-board director since May 2009. Yes, FTSE 100 companies tend to recruit their non-execs from the execs of other Footsie firms and James was chief executive of BSkyB before he became chairman. But shareholders might belatedly start asking what experience he brings: his whole working life has been inside his father’s empire.

The Murdoch son is a director of the Sotheby’s auction house too – and his day job is chief operating officer of the News Corporation parent. But it is his chairmanship of News International, the News Corp subsidiary that published the News of the World, that makes him controversial. He authorised the secret payments of up to £1m to the likes of publicist Max Clifford and former footballer Gordon Taylor in the hope of curtailing the phone-hacking scandal – payments he now admits were a mistake.

And after the resignation of Rebekah Brooks – and her arrest – James is now first in the firing line for questions about how that scandal was handled, both at the subsidiary level and at the parent when its share price started to slide.

MPs on the House of Commons culture committee will be quizzing James directly. But BSkyB’s independent directors are also reportedly asking whether he should remain their chairman – a role that was difficult when News Corp was bidding for Sky but which has become harder since.

True, James was re-elected to the Glaxo board in May with 97 per cert of the votes cast, but much has emerged about News Corp and its subsidiaries since. Shouldn’t investors now be asking what value his presence brings to Glaxo’s boardroom?

James Murdoch is still supported by GlaxoSmithKline

By John Stone

James Murdoch, the beleagured News Corporation executive, has received a ringing endorsement from MMR manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline according to Reuters news agency on Friday. GSK who appointed him to their board in February 2009 insist Murdoch has made “a strong contribution” to the group and received share payments worth $158,000 in 2010. Murdoch was appointed to the board of the pharmaceutical manufacturer with a brief to “review…external issues that might have the potential for serious impact upon the group’s business and reputation.”

Within a fortnight of his appointment News International had published at least 5 articles attacking MMR researcher Andrew Wakefield’s integrity (one , two , three , four and five ).

The accusations, while flawed, were devastating to Wakefield’s reputation. According to the Sunday Times, and its journalist, Brian Deer Wakefield was singly guilty of fabricating the data in the Lancet paper of 1998 although none of his 12 co-authors have ever repudiated it and one of them, histopathologist, Susan Davies subsequently wrote to British Medical Journal rebutting Deer’s interpretation of her evidence before the General Medical Council. Deer’s allegations were also based on his own inexpert interpretation of GP records which were never available to the authors of the paper. The allegations which were re-cycled by British Medical Journal were rebutted by Wakefield in his book Callous Disregard, and frequently in articles published on Age of Autism (AofA The Big Lie , AofA Time To Revisit Deer’s Claims , AofA Part 2 Time To Revisit Deer’s Claims ). In contrast to normal academic journal policy BMJ have adopted a legalistic defence of its allegations and (more here). Furthermore, they were forced to admit under pressure that they had undisclosed conflicts with MMR manufacturers Merck and GSK.

The Sunday Times campaign against Wakefield began in 2003 when section editor Paul Nuki approached Deer saying that he needed “something big” on “MMR” . Nuki was the son of Prof George Nuki who sat on the Committee on Safety on Medicines when MMR/Pluserix were first introduced in the late 1980s. Shortly afterwards Deer interviewed parent litigants under a false name. Unknown to Sunday Times readers Deer also pursued his own official complaints Wakefield and colleagues and came to an arrangement with General Medical Council lawyers that he would not be named in the case, leaving him free to continue reporting as if an independent journalist . Deer’s obtaining and use of confidential remains to be investigated. A statement on copyright on his website probably dating back some years states (my underlining.):

‘For reference, with regard to Brian Deer’s MMR investigation, almost all of the key facts and documents are not public domain, and, such is the culture of plagiarism, he will act against authors who represent his writing, interviews, documents, or other research, as the fruit of their own inquiries, whether referenced or not.’

In an article his website he also mentioned reading confidential reports in the MMR litigation and commented on them. When these issues were raised in British Medical Journal last year the journal took the step of removing several letters from its on-line correspondence, effectively banning all further reference to the matter from its columns.

The role of both BMJ and the News International in this affair require urgent official investigation.

John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.

Should James Murdoch Stay On The Glaxo Board?


By Ed Silverman // July 18th, 2011 // 9:35 am

Media scandals enveloping governments are not the usual fare on this site, but there is an interesting aside to the Murdoch follies in the UK – James Murdoch, the 39-year-old son of the embattled Rupert Murdoch, is a member of the GlaxoSmithKline board. As you can see here, he is listed as a non-executive director, a role he has held since May 2009.
The Murdoch affair, of course, is all about bad behavior – charges that various employees in the Murdoch media empire in the UK hacked into phones belonging to families of murder victims, terror victims, police and politicians. Then there is the overlay of all-too-cozy relationships between the Murdoch regime and the highest reaches of the UK government, notably the prime minister.
What has any of this to do with Glaxo? Well, Rupert and James face increasingly harsh scrutiny. To wit, was there any adult supervision? Did the Murdochs knowingly condone hacking phones? And if they did not know, well, why not? All sorts of questions are on the table. And the scandal already runs deep and wide. But at its core, this raises a host of concerns about managerial skills, practices, philosophies and ethics at the highest reaches of the Murdoch empire, including James, who is chief operating officer of the News Corporation parent.
With this in mind, one wonders what James Murdoch can further add to the Glaxo board. After all, the pharma industry has its share of problems and Glaxo is no exception. The drugmaker paid a hefty $750 million fine to settle charges over production problems – contaminated meds, mislabeled packaging and incorrect dosages – at a facility in Puerto Rico and the feds say the investigation is ongoing (read more here and here). And a former Glaxo attorney was indicted for obstructing an FDA probe into off-label marketing, although charges against her were dismissed (look here).
The episodes underscore the need for board members who can offer useful guidance and not just about strategy, but also how to conduct affairs in a way that enhances corporate standing and builds needed relationships with shareholders, government, partners and patients. Consider that Murdoch sits on two committees – remuneration and…drum roll, please…corporate responsibility (see here and here). Of course, one may also argue that having a board member with experience in skullduggery has its benefits, but is that really a virtue? UPDATE: A Glaxo spokeswoman writes us to say that Murdoch has made a “strong contribution” to the board. “We believe that the full facts must be established and the ongoing investigations be allowed to take place and come to a considered conclusion.” What do you think?
Should Glaxo Ask James Murdoch To Resign From The Board?


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