GSK rehires whistleblower linked to China bribery scandal

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) is still dealing with the aftermath of its China bribery scandal, working hard to clean up its tarnished reputation after shelling out nearly $500 million last year to resolve claims of wrongdoing. As the dust settles, the company is rehiring a former senior Chinese employee once suspected of blowing the whistle on GSK in the country.

The company will bring back Vivian Shi, the former head of GSK's government affairs in China, almost three years after she was removed from her position "on the grounds of alleged irregularities in her travel expenses," according to a report seen by the Financial Times. But GSK is not saying whether Shi has returned to her previous job or a different one. "We can confirm we have rehired Vivian," the company said in a statement seen by the FT. "We are not going to comment further on an individual employee."

GSK in 2013 paid a private investigation company, ChinaWhys, to target Shi as the suspected "orchestrator of a smear campaign" against GSK, which included a secretly filmed sex video of the company's then-head of Chinese operations, Mark Reilly, and a series of whistleblower emails about doctor bribery. GSK eventually landed in hot water over claims of physician bribery, paying $489 million to resolve the scandal, issuing a public apology and seeing Reilly get a three-year suspended prison sentence.

But the probe didn't turn up any hard evidence to support the company's suspicions about Shi--even though the ChinaWhys report said she was probably "capable of and responsible for the smear campaign against GSK and Dr. Reilly." And Shi "flatly denied" any involvement in the campaign, according to the report.

The rehiring comes amid more scandal for GSK, as the company continues to respond to claims of doctor bribery everywhere from Poland to the Middle East. Last week, GSK announced that it was looking into claims of improper payments to Romanian docs listed in a whistleblower's email sent to the company's top management. The company said it would investigate the claims "very thoroughly," but it's not admitting to any wrongdoing.

"We do receive letters of this sort from time to time," the company said in a statement. "Sometimes we do find things and we act on it; sometimes our findings do not substantiate the matters being raised."

- read the FT article (reg. req.)
- here's the NYT story (sub. req.)

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