Witness taped Baxter lawyer's payment offer

It's not a good time for drugmakers to be connected with "questionable payments" in foreign countries. The Justice Department is on an enforcement tear, probing pharma companies for potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Just last week, Pfizer ($PFE) disclosed some potentially problematic payments that it has referred to the feds, and other drugmakers, including Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Merck ($MRK), have found themselves questioned and subpoenaed in FCPA probes.

Apparently, a Baxter International ($BAX) lawyer in Mexico City didn't get the memo. Jorge Hernandez Marin, an attorney for the drug and device maker in a dispute with a Mexican shipping company, offered plane tickets and money to an expert witness for the other side, provided he'd leave the country rather than appear in court. The witness recorded the offer on tape, which was obtained by the Associated Press.

Marin hasn't been charged with a crime. As the ABA Journal reports, Mexican law prohibits paying an expert witness to give false testimony. Bribery charges only apply when public officials are involved. FCPA only applies to interactions with public officials, too. A Baxter spokeswoman told AP the offer "was not intended seriously and the lawyer had no authority to offer it or act on it." Baxter has pulled Marin off all its legal work, the company said.

- read the ABA Journal piece
- get more from AP