The occasion? CEO Fred Hassan's glowing memoirs-to-himself (for only he -- and perhaps Hans Becherer -- could swallow such a load of self-serving puffery). The venue? Tonight's Wall Street Journal. The stenographer? Peter Loftus, thus:
. . . .Merck knew Schering well because the companies co-market cholesterol drugs. The venture has come under pressure because of clinical studies raising questions about the drugs' safety and efficacy, but Hassan doesn't regard his handling of the matter as a major blemish. . . .
Really? Mr. Hassan's word is considered definitive, on the matter? Doesn't that seem just a tad self-interested, as statements to the press go? I mean he is only facing about 150 state and federal lawsuits that swear, and document, the opposite. I guess you were out of column space, for that sort of factual material, huh?
Hassan says he is handing over Schering-Plough "in great shape". In fact, EPS is down 17 percent this quarter, and that "non-major-blemish" -- Vytorin and Zetia -- is off ANOTHER 18 percent in the U.S., this quarter -- despite Mr. Hassan's earlier assurances that the franchise was "generally stabilizing". He said it at least twice, in public securities gatherings.
Mr. Loftus takes some pain to note that CEO Hassan "engineered" a turnaround at Pharmacia, and sold it to Pfizer -- in much the same way that he is presently selling Schering-Plough to Merck (despite the "reverse merger" smoke and mirrors).
As just one momentary fact-check would have revealed, Mr. Hassan neglects to mention, in his telling of the Pharmacia turnaround fiction, and Mr. Loftus apparently neglected to ask after, Hassan's role in the largest criminal fine ever paid -- for off-label messaging (related to conduct while he was running Pharmacia, but for which Pfizer ultimately had to pay his tab) -- to the tune of a cool $1.2 billion.
There is much, much more -- but that is enough -- to suggest that Mr. Loftus didn't do any service to his readers, tonight. Next time you're going to write fictional memoirs, while a $47 billion deal is still pending, Mr. Loftus -- think about asking some actual questions, hmmmkay? [Don't even get me started on the ten-fold understatement of his golden parachute (see above right), that passes without so much as a nod, from Mr. Loftus.]