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Ex-Glaxo In House Gets Case Dismissed: Prosecutor Error

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 29, 2011 6:47 AM

A Maryland judge dismissed obstruction charges against ex-GlaxoSmithKline General Counsel and Vice President Lauren Stevens last week.

Stevens, whose case has been watched closely for any signal that the government is changing its strategy towards corporate executives, successfully argued that prosecutors made substantial errors in the handling of the grand jury.

Lauren Stevens was indicted of charges for obstructing a Food and Drug Administration investigation into whether GSK promoted Wellbutrin for off-label uses, such as weight loss. The government has argued that she withheld slides and compensation data from officials, according to Bloomberg. She also denied specific knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing.

Stevens has primarily argued that she relied on outside counsel in deciding how to answer investigators. In other words, she didn't intend to break the law.

During the grand jury phase, a juror specifically asked prosecutors about the relevance of this contention, which, according to Reuters, is Stevens' central defense. Jurors were instructed that the issue of legal advice was irrelevant to the indictment.

The judge felt otherwise, according to his released memo, noting that it could debunk all charges. In turn, he found that this incorrect answer created 'grave doubt" about the decision to indict. Despite this, Reuters also notes that he found no improper conduct on the government's part.

Prosecutors may re-indict Lauren Stevens, but the Department of Justice has yet to decide her fate. Whether they choose to re-file will ultimately signal to the corporate world just how serious the Department is about holding corporate executives responsible for wrongdoing.

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