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Under Whose Watch Did The Ranbaxy Fraud Happen?

Rohin Dharmakumar
Published: 25, May 2013

After relatively underutilized degrees in computer sciences engineering and an MBA followed by a decade of tangential career choices ranging from technology outsourcing to public relations, I realized my passion lay in connecting the dots between market opportunities, technology, entrepreneurs and the ecosystems that bind them together. A big fan of underdogs and of possibilities, I try my best to tell stories the way my brain sees them.

Japanese companies are not known for washing their dirty linen in public, but I suppose pleading guilty to civil and criminal charges in the world's largest and most lucrative pharmaceuticals market, the USA, and agreeing to pay a $500 million fine, could cause some abnormal behavior.

On 22nd May, one week after Ranbaxy, the company it bought in 2008 for $4.6 billion, pleaded guilty with the US FDA, Daiichi Sankyo, said the following in a press release:

"Daiichi Sankyo believes that certain former shareholders of Ranbaxy concealed and misrepresented critical information concerning the U.S. DOJ and FDA investigations.  Daiichi Sankyo is currently pursuing its available legal remedies and cannot comment further on the subject at this time."

As corporate press releases go, that was about as close as one can get to a cruise missile. And in case there was any doubt who they were referring to, the answer was provided the very next.

Again, via a press release. In the erstwhile owners of Ranbaxy, the "Singh Family" comprising Malvinder and Shivinder Singh, retorted:

"Daiichi Sankyo's allegations of concealment and misrepresentation are false and baseless.

[...]

The belated suggestion, made years after the fact, that information was concealed from and/or misrepresented to Daichii Sankyo is false and designed to divert attention away from Daiichi Sankyo's own failures to protect itself and its shareholders in the negotiations and agreement with the Singh family shareholders of Ranbaxy.

[...]

It was recently reported that Ranbaxy had entered into a settlement agreement with the US FDA and DOJ in relation to their investigations and that under that settlement agreement, Ranbaxy agreed to pay large penalties to the US FDA and DOJ. The decision to enter into that settlement agreement was made by Ranbaxy and had nothing to do with the Singh family which was not even consulted by Daiichi Sankyo/Ranbaxy."

In essence, Ranbaxy's previous owners were saying that they had not hidden anything from Daiichi Sankyo during the due diligence prior to June 2008 (when the sale was inked). And, more importantly, they seemed to imply that the decisions to plead guilty before the FDA and agree to pay $500 million was not something they would have recommended, had Daiichi Sankyo consulted them.

A somewhat similar press release went out from Ranbaxy on 15th February, 2007, a day after the FDA raided their offices in the US, infamously called "The Great Valentine's Day Raid" by its employees. It said:

"Ranbaxy Inc., said today that federal officials conducted a search at its New Jersey offices on Feb 14, 2007.

Ranbaxy said that this action has come as a surprise. The company is not aware of any wrongdoing."

That was nearly one and a half years before Daiichi Sankyo would buy Ranbaxy.

To unravel the sequence of events, the best resource would be Katherine Eban's fantastic feature story, "Dirty medicine", in Fortune magazine. Pieced together using reportage spread over years, dozens of conversations and multiple Freedom of Information (FOI is the US equivalent of India's Right to Information act) requests, the story is quite simply, superlative. If you haven't read it till now, do so immediately.

In order to establish the timeline of events, I drew out the key dates and events from Eban's story and correlated it with data on who was CEO, Chairman of the Board and majority owner. Ranbaxy pleading guilty on May 13th was the culmination of a series of lapses and outright fraud, much of which seems to have started years before Daiichi Sankyo was even in the picture.

 

The figure below presents a colour-coded snapshot of the different stages in Ranbaxy's life, and who were at the helm during each of them.

Ranbaxy Control Timeline

 

  • WSJ

    This company needs to be shut down or made to undergo major overhaul from the CEO on down. I cannot understand whether the Japanese are incompetent to see this fraud or simply incapable. Arun Sawhney and his cronies have jeopardised the entire Indian Pharma industry. The change should start from R&D and its head, which is the major hub of data falsification, which is then perpetuated in manufacturing. The cultural cleaning should start from R&D and the removal of the incompetent vice president will be the first step in the right direction.

    on Feb 19, 2014
  • WSJ

    It is very wrong to blame the Singh family for the evils of Ranbaxy. It is the set senior people still working in Ranbaxy those who have developed a culture of lying and falsifying data. And these people are still very well in the Ranbaxy and they hide their incompetence's by misrepresenting data's. And these people are not from lower or middle management but from the very senior management those who have encouraged these practises as it gave immediate results that helped in the growth of their career's in Ranbaxy. As and when it comes to notice they safe guard their interest and the interest of their cronies and punish innocents. As long as these very people remain in Ranbaxy, it will continue the downward slide. It is for Daiichi to understand this and take remedial measures and not allow these very people to take corrective action.

    on Feb 19, 2014
  • vinit

    it is sommething like conspiracy to take all share from its founders

    on Jun 29, 2013
  • Kumar

    Its surprising still ranbaxy continuing their sellng in us and other markets which we start to feel that bribing and lobbying is reached upto usfda level other wise how ranbaxy is gtting approvals,dharmakumar commenting that its against indianmpharma industryls be professional,human safety is topmost important and also while doingnbusiness integrity mist be therr

    on Jun 8, 2013
  • nilesh buch

    Its a serious thing & unfortunately we all are starting day with not a positive knot but with news of frauds and wrong doing in almost each areas of our life - be it profession, social or otherwise. Where we will end up and with what cost???

    on Jun 4, 2013
  • Singh

    Let us call spade a spade, all the misdeeds have taken place under the control of former owners. They are a bundle of misrepresentation, not one or two isolated incidences. In short the very soul of the company was swimming in a tank of fraud. Stop bringing issues of third world verses western world, it does not hold water

    on May 28, 2013
  • FDA’s Feb 2009 letter sealed Malvinder’s fate – Financial Express | News Journal

    [...] Forbes India [...]

    on May 27, 2013
  • suresh

    I read the original article in Fortune. Somehow I get a feeling that the author had some agenda against the Indian Pharma industry. No doubt Ranbaxy like many Indian companies would have sailed close to the wind but to besmirch the entire generic business as clumsy/dirty seemed to be typical Western propoganda against the third world companies.

    on May 26, 2013
  • interested citizen

    Great rundown! One typo - allowed to continue Lipitor sales in 2012 not 2013.

    on May 25, 2013
    • Rohin Dharmakumar

      Thank you for noting and pointing that out. Corrected!

      on May 26, 2013
  • Sanjeev Gupta

    Fantastic work ! Excellently researched and succinctly written. As someone who followed this transaction closely in 2008 and always believing that this was a jv between escapism and naivety- it's good to know I wasn't wrong!

    on May 25, 2013
    • Rohin Dharmakumar

      Hi Sanjeev, thanks. But most, if not all, of the information in this piece came from Katherine Eban's Fortune article. All I did was to create a timeline from it, and a few other events.

      on May 26, 2013
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