GlaxoSmithKline, the UK pharmaceutical company at the centre of a Chinese corruption scandal, is facing protests from junior employees who say the group is refusing to reimburse them for bribes they were ordered to pay by superiors.
Beijing officials have accused senior employees at GSK’s China subsidiary of orchestrating a “massive and systemic bribery”. This week the company was informed that the UK Serious Fraud Office had opened a criminal inquiry.
Now some Chinese sales staff are complaining that GSK has denied them bonuses, threatened their dismissal or refused to reimburse them for bribes they say were sanctioned by their superiors to boost drug sales. In some cases, managers instructed them to purchase fake receipts that were used to cover up bribes paid in cash or gifts to doctors and hospitals, according to salesmen interviewed by the Financial Times.
In some instances, managers disguised their involvement by using personal email addresses to instruct staff to pay bribes and by ordering junior staff to claim on their personal expense accounts – even if the bribe was actually paid out by the manager – say the salesmen.
In late March, disgruntled staff sent 25 representatives to GSK’s headquarters in Shanghai, where they unfurled a banner that read “return my hard earned money”.
The amount owed totals tens of thousands of renminbi for many affected employees. Most claims cover the months before Beijing last July announced it was investigating GSK.
“All the expenses were approved by the company,” the group wrote in a letter to management. One former GSK salesman said: “The expenses were paid with our own money, and although the receipts were not compliant, it was our managers who told us to buy the fake receipts.”
Some staff were warned not to implicate their supervisors, according to a former salesman.
GSK said: “We have zero tolerance for unethical or illegal behaviour and anyone who conducts such behaviour has no place in our company.
“We believe the vast majority of our employees uphold our values and we welcome employees speaking up if they have concerns.”
The company acknowledged in April that a “very small number” of its 7,000 Chinese employees had been dismissed following an audit of expenses claims.
Additional reporting by Zhang Yan in Shanghai
中国官方指控葛兰素史克中国子公司资深员工策划“大规模、系统性的贿赂行为”。本周该公司接到通知，英国严重欺诈办公室(Serious Fraud Office, 简称SFO)已展开刑事调查。