Medical-device company Biomet Inc. has agreed to pay about $22.7 million to settle civil and criminal charges stemming from allegations the company's units and agents bribed public doctors in Argentina, Brazil and China for nearly a decade to win business, the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission said Monday.
The agencies allege that Biomet and its four units paid bribes from 2000 to August 2008, and employees and managers at all levels of the parent company and the units were involved, along with distributors. Biomet's compliance and internal audit functions failed to stop the payments to doctors even after learning about the illegal practices, the agencies alleged.
A Biomet representative wasn't immediately available for comment.
Biomet agreed to pay a $17.3 million criminal penalty for allegedly violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In its Justice Department agreement, it is required to implement rigorous internal controls, cooperate fully with the Justice Department and retain a compliance monitor for 18 months. Additionally, the company will pay $5.4 million in disgorgement of profits and prejudgment interest, as part of its separate SEC settlement.
Biomet, a privately held company that sells products used by orthopedic surgeons, is the third medical device firm to enter into a settlement with government agencies as part of the SEC and Justice Department's ongoing global investigation into medical-device companies allegedly bribing publicly employed physicians. Previously, Johnson & Johnson (>> Johnson & Johnson) and Smith & Nephew PLC (SNN, SN.LN) agreed to pay criminal penalties and entered into deferred prosecution agreements related to similar investigations, the Justice Department said.
In January, Biomet said its fiscal second-quarter loss widened as a drop in spine and bone-healing sales as well as higher costs masked the company's revenue growth.
-By Ben Fox Rubin, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3108; firstname.lastname@example.org