Pfizer has hired the former policy director for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Hazen Marshall, as a lobbyist to support the Big Pharma firm’s efforts to shut down amendments to the False Claims Amendments Act of 2021. The lobbying contract covers opposition to whistleblower protections and affirming Pfizer’s patents on the COVID-19 vaccine, The National Pulse can reveal.
Lobbyist filings reveal Pfizer recently retained the D.C.-based Marshall & Popp to fight amendments to a law that currently does little to protect the public against fraud by firms like Pfizer. The lobbying firm, which raked in over $3,000,000 in 2021, was founded by former Mitch McConnell staffer Hazen Marshall and former Chief of Staff to Republican Senate Whip John Cornyn, Monica Popp.
The corporate-establishment Republicans also appear to represent the interests of Alphabet (Google), Altria (Philip Morris Tobacco), and a slew of other pharmaceutical clients alongside Pfizer in Washington.
Marshall & Popp was founded in 2019, and was temporarily prohibited from lobbying in the U.S. Senate per the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (2007), as noted by POLITICO.
In the official filing, Marshall and his team were recruited to lobby against the aforementioned bill, as well as issues related to waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines. Waiving protections on the COVID-19 vaccination patent would force Pfizer to give up their essential wealth funnel from the federal government.
Pfizer and Fraud.
Should the whistleblower-related amendments pass, it would make it easier to hold companies accountable for corporate fraud. The bill itself has been in existence since the Civil War, and as The National Law Review has noted:
Like many other pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer has paid hefty fines for violations of the False Claims Act. In 2009, Pfizer “agreed to pay $2.3 billion, the largest health care fraud settlement in the history of the Department of Justice, to resolve criminal and civil liability arising from the illegal promotion of certain pharmaceutical products,” according to the DOJ. This record settlement stemmed from a lawsuit brought against Pfizer by six whistleblowers.
Pfizer was allegedly aware that their drug, Bextra, was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for anything other than arthritis and menstrual cramps. Regardless, the firm chose to push the drug for acute and surgical pain. Six whistleblowers brought the lawsuit against Pfizer via the False Claims Act, culminating in the enormous fraud settlement.
In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that fraud lawsuits could be dismissed if the government was continuing to pay a contractor after the allegations were revealed. The 2016 ruling bodes well for Pfizer, as hidden camera footage of a Pfizer scientist showed that the company “basically… is run on COVID money now.”
In 2020, Pfizer entered into a $1.95 billion agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense to produce 100 million doses of the notorious COVID-19 vaccine.
The proposed amendments in the False Claims Amendments Act of 2021 would strengthen the protection of whistleblowers, including aspects related to anti-retaliation and blacklisting of whistleblowers seeking industry employment.
Marshall & Popp was hired shortly before a damning report was filed with The BMJ with regards to Pfizer’s data integrity issues. The whistleblower report notes poor laboratory management, worries over FDA inspections, lack of follow-up with patients experiencing adverse events, lack of protocol reports over deviations, as well as mislabeling of laboratory specimens.
As the government continues to pay Pfizer despite past activities, the fraud at their testing labs may not be considered “material” under the 2016 ruling. The amendments proposed in the 2021 Act would change the evidentiary standards for proving materiality to a preponderance of evidence. Therefore, the burden of proving whistleblower claims would fall on the shoulders of companies like Pfizer.
At present, Pfizer has more than 80 lobbyists on their books, totaling more than $7,000,000 in expenditures in 2021. Marshall’s firm received $100,000 to work with the pharma giant. To-date, the False Claims Amendment Act of 2021 has not passed. Protections on the COVID-19 patent are still in place.