Move over Martin Shrkeli. Corporate greed and hubris has a new face. While her appearance is only slightly nicer than Shrkeli’s her ability to generate public relations troubles for her company are on an even par. And what of the public relations people who have to provide cover for this wide awake nightmare? Keep reading. Mylan CEO Bresch Creates PR Nightmare.
Mylan is the pharmaceutical company that cornered the market on the life-saving EpiPen and then dramatically increased its price. Not coincidentally Mylan also jacked up the pay of top executives.
Between 2007, when Mylan acquired the patent for the EpiPen, to 2015, the wholesale price went from $56.64 to $317.82 — a price increase of 461 percent. Similarly, compensation for Mylan CEO Heather Bresch increased astronomically over the same time period. According to NBC News, Bresch went from making $2.453,456 in 2007 to $18,931,068 in 2015, amounting to a 671 percent raise over eight years. Good work if you can find it. While Bresch was not the only executive at Mylan to receive added compensation, hers was the highest and most egregious.
With apologies to Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bresch is the daughter of senator Joe Manchin, a Democratic U.S. senator from West Virginia and the state’s former governor. Heather Bresch’s career has risen along with her father’s, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by her critics. Her father got her a job around 1992 when her stint as an aerobics teacher in California did not go as planned. The future senator was elected Secretary of State in 2000 and in 2002 Heather was named the company’s lobbyist. There are plenty of other examples of how Heather’s responsibilities increased as her father won elections. Read them all here: How a senator’s daughter became CEO of the company at the center of the EpiPen controversy.
Bresch had other P.R. gaffes when her MBA from West Virginia was rescinded. Mylan CEO Bresch Creates PR Nightmare
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Bresch did not actually have enough credits for an MBA from West Virginia University, even though the news release announcing her new, high-profile job said she had earned one. The school, through its own investigation, found Bresch had been given grades “pulled from thin air” because of her “high profile.”
Her father was finishing up his third year as governor at the time, and Bresch’s critics were vocal about whether her connections led to this drama. The school took the degree back. But that’s not the end. She reincorporated her U.S.-based drug company in the Netherlands, which cut its tax liability. Ouch. Mylan CEO Bresch Creates PR Nightmare
Flack For Mylan
To their credit the company has a statement on their web site and puts the blame for the increase on ‘the current changes in the healthcare insurance landscape.’ To read the entire statement click here; http://newsroom.mylan.com/access. But the media is not buying it. Mylan and Bresch are buried in bad publicity.
The company’s twitter account makes no mention of the EpiPen but the rest of the twitter-verse is awash in negatives. These come from all parts of the media; left, right and all other ways media leans today. It amounts to universal condemnation. So what can public relations people learn from this?
Easy. Some leaders are terrible. Terrible at understanding the optics of juxtaposing their big raises along side of price increases for medicine that is life saving for millions. Terrible because they failed to learn anything from Martin Shrkeli. Terrible because they spent their lives above the rules based on their ‘high profiles’. Terrible because they have no shame. Could Bresch and Mylan recover? Sure. Reduce the price immediately, say you are sorry for the whole thing and promise to learn from these mistakes. Hands of those who think this is likely? No one? Okay.
What will hopefully happen is that the negative press and government investigations that will follow force the board to fire the well connected but hard to love Bresch from her job as CEO. Bresch will then claim she was victimized because of her gender. But no one will believe that either.
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