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U.S. says Pfizer unit pleads guilty to kickback
Business Law Info | 2007/04/26 07:01

Pharmacia and Upjohn Company Inc., a unit of Pfizer Inc. (PFE.N), pleaded guilty to one count of offering a kickback to a pharmacy benefit manager and was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $19.68 million, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.

As a result of its conviction, Pharmacia will be excluded permanently from participation in all federal health care programs, prosecutors said.

Pharmacy benefit managers often recommend drugs to health plans. Their list of recommended drugs is called a formulary.

Prosecutors alleged Pharmacia offered the pharmacy benefit manager inflated payments in the amount of $12.3 million.

They also charged that Pharmacia's financial analyses showed the company expected to earn that much or more from the improved formulary positioning and benefits their drugs were expected to receive in return.

Earlier this month, prosecutors said Pharmacia would plead guilty to the charge, pay the fine and be permanently banned from federal health care programs.

Samsung exec pleads guilty in DRAM scandal
Business Law Info | 2007/04/20 19:18

A sixth executive from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has agreed to plead guilty to participating in a global conspiracy to fix DRAM prices, the Department of Justice announced. Il Ung Kim, a Korean executive, has agreed to serve 14 months in a United States prison, the longest imprisonment ever by a foreign defendant charged with price fixing in the United States, according to the DOJ.

Kim, vice president of marketing for the memory division at Samsung, agreed to plead guilty to a single count of price fixing. As part of his plea agreement, Kim agreed to pay a $250,000 criminal fine and to assist prosecutors in the ongoing investigation. The entry of the plea agreement and sentencing is currently scheduled for April 25, 2007. The plea and recommended sentence must be approved by the court.

Kim agreed to plead guilty to the charge contained in an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in October 2006. Kim was charged with participating in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing the prices of DRAM to be sold to certain original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of personal computers and servers, in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

To date, the court has imposed criminal fines totaling more than $730 million against the DRAM cartel members, which is the second-largest total amount of fines ever imposed in a U.S. criminal antitrust investigation. A total of 18 individuals and four companies have been charged as a result of the Department's ongoing antitrust investigation into the DRAM industry.

In November 2005, Samsung pleaded guilty to participating in the price- fixing conspiracy and was sentenced to pay a $300 million criminal fine in November 2005. A second Korean manufacturer, Hynix Semiconductor Inc., pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $185 million criminal fine in May 2005.

In October 2004, German manufacturer Infineon pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $160 million criminal fine. In January 2006, Japanese manufacturer Elpida Memory pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay an $84 million fine.

Of the 18 individuals that have been charged in the DRAM investigation, 15 individuals have been convicted. Kim is the first of three defendants charged in the October 2006 indictment to plead guilty. A trial against Kim's co- defendant Gary Swanson, senior vice president of memory sales and marketing for Hynix Semiconductor America Inc., is scheduled for Sept. 10, 2007.

A third defendant charged in the October 2006 indictment, Young Bae Rha, a Korean national and the vice president of sales and marketing for Samsung's memory division, remains at large.

Kim is the sixth Samsung executive to agree to plead guilty and agree to a prison sentence in the DRAM investigation. In April 2006, Sun Woo Lee and Yeongho Kang pleaded guilty to participating in the price-fixing conspiracy while they worked for Samsung or its subsidiaries in the U.S.

Cytochroma settles lawsuit with Genzyme
Business Law Info | 2007/04/18 18:17

Cytochroma, Inc., a company managed by former employees of Bone Care International, has announced the settling of a lawsuit filed in August 2006 by Genzyme Corp., the company that acquired Bone Care in 2005.

The lawsuit, in which Genzyme claimed that the former Bone Care employees had begun to develop the company's trade secrets into new products, was being adjudicated in the United States District Court, Western District of Wisconsin.

Genzyme filed the suit in August of 2006 against Cytochroma Inc., Proventiv Therapeutics, LLC, and the three former Bone Care International employees.

The complaint alleged the misappropriation of Vitamin D-related trade secrets, and has been formally dismissed. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The three former Bone Care employees - Charles Bishop, Keith Crawford, and Eric Messner - formed Proventiv Therapeutics, which was acquired by Cytochroma in 2006.

Cytochroma is a pharmaceutical company that is developing products to treat and prevent diseases and disorders related to vitamin D hormone deficiency. The company is deciding whether to open an office in Madison.

New York seeks probe of Wal-Mart for surveillance
Business Law Info | 2007/04/11 16:01

New York City is seeking a probe of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) over the retailer's reported surveillance of shareholders who submitted proxy petitions that could potentially disrupt the company's annual meeting. New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. sent letters to the U.S. Attorney General's office and the Securities and Exchange Commission, asking for an investigation into the world's largest retailer for what he called "ill-considered and possibly illegal surveillance operations."

"As New York City's Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Investment Advisor to the City's Pension Funds, I am particularly troubled by reports that Wal-Mart engaged in chilling and truly outrageous surveillance activities," Thompson wrote. Copies of the letters were posted on the comptroller's Web site.

Wal-Mart could not immediately comment on the story. The SEC declined to comment.

Last week, a report in The Wall Street Journal said an internal Wal-Mart security group was asked to investigate the potential threat of those submitting proposals to its June shareholder meeting.

Following the article's publication, Tom Hyde, Wal-Mart's top legal officer, sent a letter to shareholder proponents saying that while the article implied that the company had initiated an intrusive "threat assessment" of shareholders who submitted proposals for inclusion in Wal-Mart's annual proxy statement, that was not true.

"In spite of a January 2007 memo referenced in the article, there were no inquiries made with respect to the proponents of shareholder proposals," he wrote in the letter, a copy of which Wal-Mart provided. "Given the nature of the matters proposed and our familiarity with the individual proponents, the request contained in the memo was not acted upon."

The New York City Pension Funds represent nearly 600,000 active members, beneficiaries and retirees and are valued at nearly $100 billion, according the Web site.

Wal-Mart shares fell 24 cents to $47.70 in morning New York Stock Exchange trade.

Chrysler Gets Big Offer from Billionaire Kerkorian
Business Law Info | 2007/04/09 14:47

Los Angeles billionaire Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Company said Friday that his 4.5-billion-dollar bid for Chrysler would be based on "a true partnership" of the automaker's management, workers and investors. The company said what Kerkorian's camp has "in mind is a true partnership of all the constituencies -- the company's management, all of its employees (both union and non-union) and the investors bringing the necessary new funds to the company to enable it to substantially enhance its product spending -- the life blood of any auto company".

"What we are talking about is a transformation in the way the risks and rewards in a large enterprise are shared -- an arrangement in which the interests of all constituencies are more fully aligned than in today's typical structure," the company said in a statement.

"We acknowledge that such an approach cannot be 'forced' on any of the parties, but rather can only be achieved with all parties feeling as if they are the recipients of a fair deal," the statement said.

Tracinda's offer to purchase Chrysler was announced Thursday. The bid is about one-fifth of what Kerkorian offered for Chrysler in 1995. Last year, Chrysler lost 1.5 billion.

In a letter to the board of Chrysler parent company Daimler Chrysler AG, Tracinda officials also offered to post a 100-million-dollar deposit to ensure exclusive negotiating rights on the sale.

According to The Detroit News, other bidders for the company include Blackstone Group and Cerberus Capital Management and Magna International Inc.

Kerkorian was named by the Los Angeles Business Journal last year as the richest man in Los Angeles, with an estimated worth of 9.3 billion dollars.

Born to Armenian immigrants in Fresno in 1917, Kerkorian, who never attended college, made billions of dollars in investments in Las Vegas casinos, airlines, and MGM studios -- which he later sold.

He was Chrysler Corp.'s largest shareholder in the 1990s. Last year, Kerkorian sold his holdings in General Motors after a failed proposal to merge the company with Renault and Nissan Motor Co.

Sony drops cost of PSP handheld game device
Business Law Info | 2007/04/05 02:58

Looking to lure more American gamers, SONY Computer Entertainment America announced Tuesday it will cut the price of its handheld PlayStation Portable game device from 200 U.S. dollars to 170 dollars. Sony is hoping to deepen its market penetration alongside Nintendo DS and Nokia's N-Gage by attracting young male gamers with a lower priced handheld game system.

"We have always been passionate about making great entertainment accessible to everyone, and the new price for PSP, as well as the continued growth of the "Greatest Hits" library, reflect our ongoing commitment to supporting and expanding the PSP community," said Jack Tretton, president and CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment America.

The PSP is in its third year of production, and lately has been outshone by the popular DS.

"The PSP needed a price cut to reinvigorate the market. Wal-Mart sold the PSP for 169 dollars for five hours on Black Friday -- a time in which we believe the company was able to sell over 100,000 pieces of hardware," BMO Capital Markets analyst Edward Williams said in a client note.

Williams said main beneficiaries of the price cut should be video-game retailer GameStop, and to a lesser extent Take-Two Interactive Software, which has a healthy line-up of games for the paperback book-sized device.

"In general, though, all publishers should benefit," Williams said.

In 2006, PSP shipments rose to nearly 25 million units worldwide, with more than one million new PSP systems sold in North America in December alone. In addition, software shipments increased to more than 90 million units last year, according to Sony's figures.

The PSP platform is also slated for further market penetration this year with new game releases. The 2007 game releases lineup includes "God of War," "Ratchet & lank," "SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs," "Daxter," and "Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror."

Sony Computer Entertainment America is a division of global electronics maker Sony.

A representative for Sony in Japan said there would not be an immediate price cut on the PSP in that market.

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