Pfizer ($PFE) hired investigators to dig up dirt on Nigeria's attorney general, hoping to use evidence of corruption to pressure him to drop lawsuits stemming from a controversial meningitis drug trial, according to WikiLeaks' trove of confidential diplomatic cables. Pfizer denied the investigation, calling the notion "preposterous," but said it hasn't seen the documents in question.
As reported by The Guardian--and detailed in a cable from the U.S. embassy in Nigeria--Pfizer's top executive in that country met with embassy officials in April 2009 about the company's investigation of federal attorney Michael Aondoakaa. The probe was designed to "uncover corruption links to...Aondoakaa to expose him and put pressure on him to drop the federal cases," Pfizer's Enrico Liggeri said during that meeting, the cable states.
Pfizer's plan was to hand off the incriminating info to local media, Liggeri said. Nigerian newspapers had previously published "a series of damaging articles" about Aondoakaa's "alleged" coruption; Liggeri maintained that Pfizer had even more damaging info on the attorney general.
At the time of that meeting--April 9 last year--U.S. media was abuzz with news that Pfizer was close to settling the much-watched litigation over its testing the meningitis drug Trovan on children during an epidemic. Pfizer has always maintained that it conducted the trial properly. The $75 million settlement didn't actually come through until July, but the WikiLeaks cables show that the settlement deal was tentatively reached in April. Pfizer "was not happy" about settling the case, but considered the $75 million figure "reasonable."