Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to grant immunity to a GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) executive in return for his testimony against one of the company’s top lawyers. The move comes as the accused lawyer revealed in court that she believes the feds have launched a wide-ranging, ongoing probe of the entire company via a grand jury in Boston.
The underlying case alleges that the lawyer, former vp/associate general counsel Lauren Stevens, made false statements to the FDA to conceal that GSK was illegally marketing the antidepressant Wellbutrin for weight loss and other unapproved uses. (Stevens previously had the indictment dismissed, but a grand jury reinstated it.) The feds’ strategy seems to be a version of “divide and conquer” — prosecutors want executives at GSK to know that they have two choices: Cooperate, and we won’t charge you; fail to cooperate, and we have a grand jury waiting to ask you difficult questions about how you sell drugs. Prosecutors want vp/strategic pricing, contracting and marketing James Millar to take the stand against Stevens. “It is likely that James Millar will refuse to testify or provide other information on the basis of his privilege against self-incrimination,” they told the judge. It is not clear from court papers what the feds believe Millar has to offer. In pretrial motions, Stevens’ lawyers set the stage by describing her prosecution as merely “one very thin slice of a very large Government investigation … concerning other individuals, other drugs and other time periods”: Stevens also took the unusual step of leaking the fact that a grand jury in Boston is conducting “a sweeping investigation of the company as a whole,” and the probe is ongoing: Grand jury investigations are confidential proceedings and although Stevens’ lawyers may not be bound by that confidentiality attorneys usually respect the secrecy of the process. It is not clear why Stevens wants this dirty laundry out in the open. In fact, it could harm Stevens’ defense — her former colleagues at GSK now know they may be targets of the probe and that prosecutors are offering get-out-of-jail-free cards in return for testifying against her. Related: