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Ex-Glaxo Lawyer’s Defense in Criminal Case Raises Tricky Privilege Issues for Company, Experts Say

Posted Nov 11, 2010 12:17 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A retired in-house lawyer's announced intent to rely on claimed legal advice from outside counsel in defending against criminal accusations of wrongdoing concerning her work at GlaxoSmithKline raises tricky privilege issues for the company, experts say.

On the one hand, if former vice president and associate general counsel Lauren Stevens is convicted of the charges made against her in a federal indictment earlier this week, that could put Glaxo on the hot seat, too, reports Reuters Legal.

Hence, the pharmaceutical company might agree to waive privilege and produce evidence of the legal advice that Stevens received from the unidentified law firm, to help her defend against the claims that she concealed information from the federal Food and Drug Administration.

On the other hand, however, Glaxo, like any other company, presumably is not eager to volunteer for government scrutiny, even though it has said it is cooperating with the federal investigation in the Maryland case.

"A company put into this position is going to be focused on avoiding entanglement with the government and is not going to rush to the defense of former officers who have gotten in the crosshairs of prosecutors," says Washington, D.C., attorney Jeff Ifrah. He focuses his practice on health care and white-collar defense.

But, in order to be perceived as cooperating with the government, the company might also waive privilege for that reason, the article notes.

Stevens is charged in the indictment with obstruction; falsifying and concealing documents; and four counts of making false statements concerning the alleged promotion of a Glaxo anti-depressant for off-label uses.

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