Pfizer pats itself on the back for tax reform lobbying, do-gooder investments

Pfizer CEO Ian Read
“I do believe that Pfizer was to play a major role in putting a spotlight on the disadvantageous corporate tax situation for U.S. multinationals,” Pfizer CEO Ian Read told investors Tuesday. (Pfizer)

On Pfizer’s fourth-quarter conference call, Morgan Stanley analyst David Risinger congratulated company executives on their “efforts to educate Washington having finally paid off.”

And the way CEO Ian Read sees it, those congratulations are well deserved.

“I do believe that Pfizer was to play a major role in putting a spotlight on the disadvantageous corporate tax situation for U.S. multinationals,” he told investors, according to a call transcript on Seeking Alpha.

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Pfizer has been vocal for years now about its desire for tax reform, and its skipper made no efforts to hide his disdain for the previous system. And now that it has what it wants, the company is publicly touting its reinvestment in the country that just lopped 6% off its corporate tax rate.

RELATED: What will Pfizer do with tax reform? It won't revive a split, CFO says

The company plans to invest about $5 billion in stateside “capital projects” over the next five years, including beefing up its U.S. manufacturing presence, Pfizer said (PDF) Tuesday—though it's unclear how much of that spending would have been done anyway, had the new tax laws not been passed.

And that’s not the only good it plans to do with the up-to-$24 billion it can now bring home in overseas cash. It also made a $200 million donation to the Pfizer Foundation, which supports organizations and entrepreneurs working to improve health care delivery; made a $500 million contribution to its U.S. pension plan for 2018; and earmarked $100 million for one-time bonuses for non-executive employees, the company said. (Its headcount for 2016 tallied 96,500, putting the bonus total at about $1,000 per staffer on average.)

Last month, in response to the new legislation, Pfizer's board authorized $10 billion in share buybacks, too.

RELATED: J&J takes $14B hit on the way to 'immediate' tax reform windfall

Pfizer’s not the only one that has gone out of its way to brag that its new troves of cash are going toward more than just M&A—especially in an industry where pickups are nearly always followed by rounds of layoffs. Last week, Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky called putting its newfound funds back into the company’s pipeline “the wise thing to do.”

Meanwhile, others are still combating the idea that an M&A tidal wave is coming, especially in the wake of a giant week of dealmaking, led in part by U.S.-based Celgene. Last week, Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos, for one, said he doesn’t “see a frenzy” happening anytime soon.


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