We all know the slogan, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” Well, I’m not really sure a “good” neighbor would try to bribe public officials or pull a bait and switch by charging you for a more expensive product while delivering a cheaper, subpar version. This is just one recent example of how big business is putting profits before people and why it’s more important than ever to hold corporations accountable for their actions.
Just last week, State Farm, the biggest auto insurer in the U.S., agreed to pay $250 million just before going to trial. They were facing charges stating that the company tried to influence the Illinois justice system to wipe out a $1 billion jury verdict from 19 years ago. State Farm allegedly attempted to elect Judge LLoyd Karmeier in the 2004 election campaign for the Illinois Supreme Court by funneling money through advocacy groups that hid the identity of its donors. The original verdict that they wanted to overturn involved State Farm providing generic auto parts of lower quality than the name-brand counterparts they promised which violated the terms of their insurance policies.
“In 1999, an Illinois state court jury awarded the customers $456 million for breach of contract, and the trial judge added $730 million in damages on a fraud claim,” explained the Chicago Tribune. “An appellate court reduced the verdict to $1.056 billion, but it was one of the largest class-action awards in U.S. legal history.”
While this is a terrible act that sought to alter the legal system and rip off customers, big pharmaceutical companies are committing worse acts that compromise our health on behalf of the bottom line. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) fined Sanofi for $25 million charging that this Paris based pharmaceutical company bribed government officials and healthcare providers to use their products.
The SEC states that, “The schemes spanned multiple countries and involved bribe payments to government procurement officials and healthcare providers in order to be awarded tenders [contracts] and to increase prescriptions of its products… distributors were used as part of a kickback scheme to generate funds from which bribes were paid to officials to ensure that Sanofi was awarded tenders at public institutions… various pay-to-prescribe schemes were used to induce healthcare providers to increase their prescriptions of Sanofi products.”
What this means is that instead of allowing medical professionals to choose the best or most affordable medication for patients, doctors would prescribe Sanofi products which would make the company millions of dollars. While this specific instance occurred in Kazakhstan and the Middle East, this isn’t the first time Sanofi has been accused of compromising patient welfare. Sanofi is also the company that makes Taxotere, the chemotherapy drug that has caused thousands of breast cancer patients to have permanent alopecia (hair loss). In this case involving women worldwide, they neither warned women nor admitted to any wrongdoing concerning this chronic condition.
Clearly big business needs to be held accountable by the public. We can do this by voicing our complaints to our government officials, filing a claim against these companies to hit them where it hurts (their wallets!), and by educating ourselves on the drugs that we take and the services we use. Together, we can fight for our rights and show big business that we’re smarter, stronger, and tougher than they realize.