Bristol-Myers Squibb confirms it's a target of bribery probe

Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) has made it official. It is under federal investigation, potentially for foreign bribery.

In a filing Thursday, it just said that the SEC has started a probe of its sales and marketing departments and that last month it received a subpoena tied to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Nothing more was disclosed and the company didn't want to comment, reports the Financial Times.

The publication in January listed Bristol Myers among a host of companies being investigated for bribes. It says U.S. investigators started an inquiry on BMS after a German prosecutor started checking into its practices there.

There have been so many FCPA cases filed or settled recently that it is pretty clear it's a common practice in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries to bribe foreign officials, in many cases doctors working in national health systems, to sell more product.

The U.S. has been aggressive in this realm. Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) agreed to pay $70 million in the U.S. to wrap up an FCPA investigation, and U.K. investigators won a £5 million ($8.1 million) payment. The allegations included payments in Iraq, Greece, Poland and Romania. Other companies targeted in FCPA probes include Pfizer ($PFE) Merck ($MRK), Baxter ($BAX), Eli Lilly ($LLY), GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and AstraZeneca ($AZN), according to the Financial Times.

Biomet recently settled a probe with the Department of Justice on allegations of bribing public healthcare workers in Argentina, Brazil and China to secure business with hospitals.

Other countries also have launched their own corruption probes, the FT points out. Investigations in Serbia roped in AstraZeneca, Actavis, Sanofi ($SNY), Roche ($RHHBY) and PharmaSwiss, among others.

- read the Financial Times piece