Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Firm linked to Clintons may buy agency that defended drugmaker after arthritis drug killed thousands

APCO Worldwide "has long provided public relations services for the Clinton Foundation, free of charge."

1/4/16 UPDATE: US journalists covering the 2016 presidential race are still neglecting to regularly report on the controversial consulting firm Teneo, even though it has deep connections to top Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton (and ties to the Bushes, as I will expand upon in future articles), while it continues to pursue its "worldwide" ambitions. Many US and UK reporters who cover politics and business routinely thank me for providing continual coverage of Teneo, but this story - and its sources - haven't gotten a single link, or even a retweet on Twitter from one US media outlet.

On January 1st, Mark Paul noted at the Irish Times - as I reported on the day it was published - that the UK-based PR Week claimed Teneo was "leading the race" to buy another large public relations firm called Apco, which employs many former US government officials. "It was speculated that the options open to suitors such as Teneo or [China's] BlueFocus include buying the minority stake owned by US bank, WindRiver, or launching a wider bid for majority control by targeting the stakes held by senior staff," Paul observed.

In an analysis called "What Apco Wants", The Holmes Report published an interview on January 3rd with the firm's founder, Margery Kraus, who - as I reported last week - donated to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. "We’re not looking to sell a majority now", Kraus told Arun Sudhaman. "We are simply looking to replace our current outside investors, who are minority investors. If we would ever consider selling a majority in the company, it would have to be an extraordinary opportunity—both in terms of value created and in terms of strategic opportunity for our team."

However, as Sudhaman noted, "[t]he presence of Teneo among APCO’s suitors suggests that a majority sale of the firm cannot be ruled out", and "Teneo itself did not respond to request for comment, but agency sources within the group told the Holmes Report that talks with APCO are ongoing." He added, "Accordingly, Kraus wants a partner that can complement APCO in specific areas, including big data (the firm launched its own offering in 2014), global geopolitical solutions (where APCO’s international advisory council remains a unique, if premium, practice) and digital."

Teneo - a consulting firm that was co-founded by former President Bill Clinton's "body man" and two Hillary Clinton fundraisers, one of whom she appointed as US Economic Adviser to No. Ireland - still has worldwide ambitions, even if the US press continues to ignore them, as the former Secretary of State leads Democratic presidential polls in the 2016 race.

"Global public affairs consultancy APCO is in discussions with potential investors, with a sale or partial sale to Teneo understood to be among the favoured options, PRWeek has learned," John Harrington reported earlier today.
"PRWeek understands that talks have taken place with Teneo, the acquisitive American consultancy, about a potential investment in the business. APCO declined to comment on these talks.

PRWeek also understands BlueFocus - the Chinese agency that has global expansion ambitions of its own, having bought a minority stake in Huntsworth - has also been in discussions with APCO. However, Teneo is thought to be leading the race for the consultancy.
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Harrington notes that "APCO, which is headquartered in Washington DC and has more than 30 offices worldwide, generated revenue of $118.1m (£79.3m) in 2014, according to PRWeek’s Global Agency Business Report, making it the world’s 18th largest PR network" and "[a] swoop for APCO would be the biggest acquisition yet for Teneo, more than doubling its global headcount to over 1,100 with the addition of more than 600 APCO employees." He adds that "Teneo declined to comment", which is par for the course, since the firm keeps its client list kind of secretive and prefers giving scoops to journalists who leave them out of stories, as I've been reporting.

As her biography states, "Margery Kraus, executive chairman of APCO Worldwide, a global consulting firm headquartered in Washington, D.C., specializes in public affairs, communication and business consulting for major multinationals. Ms. Kraus founded APCO in 1984 and transformed it from a company with one small Washington office to a multinational consulting firm in major cities throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In September 2004, Ms. Kraus led a management buy-out of her firm, making APCO one of the largest privately owned communication and public affairs firms in the world."

"Prior to starting APCO, Ms. Kraus assisted in the creation and development of the Close Up Foundation, a multi-million-dollar educational foundation sponsored in part by the United States Congress. Ms. Kraus continues to be involved with the foundation by serving on its board of directors," the APCO bio adds.

Kraus donated $2,300 to the "Hillary Clinton for President" campaign in 2007, but hasn't openly contributed to her in the 2016 race.

A few former Clintonites work at APCO Worldwide, who the consulting firm rely on to maintain "a diplomatic corps for global client needs."

In 2011, as BulldogReporter.com noted, "Mark Medish, former senior staff member of the National Security Council (NSC) during the Clinton administration and Washington veteran, will join APCO Worldwide (www.apcoworldwide.com) to run its executive advisory service Global Political Strategies (GPS). Medish will lead the GPS team of senior former government and corporate officials from around the world who have formed a diplomatic corps for global client needs, particularly as they do business in challenging markets."

"Prior to joining APCO, Medish had a distinguished public service career in national security, financial policy and international development," the 2011 article added. "He served at the White House as special assistant to President Bill Clinton and NSC senior director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs."

In March of 2013, another APCO press release noted, "Kraus and APCO also are involved in other civic efforts including work for the Clinton Global Initiative and Yunus Social Business, a new initiative of Professor Muhammad Yunus the recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom and 2010 Congressional Gold Medal.

A few months ago, on September 25, a Clinton Global Initiative press release announced, "Global communications consultancy APCO Worldwide is partnering with CGI to support communications at the CGI 2015 Annual Meeting. APCO staff members will be located in the Press Working Room and will be able to help with inquiries and with contacting CGI members." Apco has partnered with CGI many times over the last eight years. ABC NEWS reported in May that it , "has long provided public relations services for the Clinton Foundation, free of charge."
"The 2015 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting will convene more than 1,000 global leaders in philanthropy, business, government, and civil society on September 26-29 in New York City to define the next decade of commitment-making through “The Future of Impact” theme.

.... Announced participants and attendees include: His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President, Republic of Liberia; Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine; Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of the Italian Republic; Sir Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group and Virgin Unite; Ursula Burns, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Xerox Corporation; John Chambers, Executive Chairman of the Board, Cisco; Bill Gates, Co-chair and Trustee, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Anita Goel, Chairman and CEO, Nanobiosym Diagnostics; Elizabeth Holmes, Founder and CEO, Theranos; Michel Li├Ęs, Group CEO, Swiss Reinsurance Company; Jack Ma, Executive Chairman, Alibaba Group; John McFarlane, Chairman, Barclays; Carolyn Miles, President and CEO, Save the Children; Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO, Acumen; Art Peck, Chief Executive Officer, Gap Inc.; Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever; Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of Foreign Trade, United Arab Emirates; Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States; George Soros, Founder and Chairman, Soros Fund Management and Open Society Foundations; and Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group.

Erin Burnett, anchor, “Erin Burnett OutFront”; Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” and Washington Post columnist; Becky Quick, co-anchor of CNBC’s “Squawk Box”; Shane Smith, CEO and co-founder of Vice Media; Abderrahim Foukara, Washington, DC Bureau Chief of Al Jazeera; and Gideon Rose, Editor, Foreign Affairs, will moderate special sessions for broadcast or webcast, as well as additional members of the media who will participate in sessions including Tina Brown, Founder and CEO, Tina Brown Live Media; Adam Davidson, Economics Writer, The New York Times; Rana Foroohar, Assistant Managing Editor and Economics Columnist, Global Economic Analyst, TIME, CNN; Yang Lan, Chairman, Sun Media Group and Sun Culture Foundation; Betsy McKay, Atlanta Bureau Chief, The Wall Street Journal; and Max Schorr, Co-Founder and Board Member, GOOD magazine.
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In July, the firm announced that "Lisa Osborne Ross, a former senior Clinton administration official and 20-year public relations agency veteran, is joining APCO Worldwide as the managing director of its Washington office, effective August 10."

"Ross served in the first and second terms of the Clinton administration, specializing in policy development and issues management," the APCO announcement added. "During this time, she was communications director for the U.S. Department of Labor’s effort to create and promote high-performance workplaces, deputy director of the bipartisan Federal Glass Ceiling Commission and chief of staff for the White House’s Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach. Ross also created and directed the Office of Public Liaison at the U.S. Department of Labor under Secretary Alexis Herman."

It also noted other former "senior leaders" who used to work for the US government: "She joins other senior leaders at APCO in Washington, including: Gadi Dechter, head of public affairs and former senior advisor at the White House National Economic Council and National Security Council; Alicia Peterson Clark, deputy managing director for Washington, D.C., and former special assistant to the president under President George W. Bush; Tim Roemer, senior director and former U.S. ambassador to India and member of Congress; Cliff Stearns, executive director and former member of Congress; Melissa Musiker, global chair of APCO’s Food, Consumer Products and Retail practice and former USDA economist; and Marilyn Fancher, chief creative officer at APCO."

According to his APCO Worldwide bio, "During his tenure, Ambassador Roemer was charged with leading one of America’s largest diplomatic missions. Under the leadership of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he was responsible for broadening and deepening the US-India partnership. He oversaw the implementation of several key policies and initiatives, including increasing cooperation, technology transfer and commercial sales in the defense and space industries; signing the Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative to further expand cooperation in areas such as intelligence and homeland security, border security, money laundering and terrorist financing; and working with the United States to assist India on its Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership. He also emphasized commerce and exports, helping move India from America’s 25th-largest trading partner to 12th.

On April 28, Jonathan Allen noted at Vox that APCO has contributed between $25,000 and $50,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

In 2007, the Holmes Report noted, "Linda Distlerath, a leading health policy expert and former vice president of global health policy, at Merck & Co., has joined APCO Worldwide as a senior vice president."

In an April 11, 2010 Bloomberg News article, Sarah Rabil reported, "APCO Worldwide, the public relations firm that advised Hewlett-Packard Co.’s board after accusations of harassment against its chief executive officer, has handled crises from Merck & Co.’s Vioxx scandal to WorldCom Inc.’s fraud and now is helping Wall Street earn back America’s trust.

"Kent Jarrell, a senior vice president at APCO and director of the litigation communication practice, worked on public relations during Merck’s Vioxx painkiller lawsuits after a study found the drug doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes," Rabil's story continued. "He also worked with Ford Motor Co. when Explorers with Firestone tires were blamed for fatal crashes, and Alaska Air Group Inc.’s Alaska Airlines after a flight crashed in January 2000."

DrugWatch.com notes, "Initially hailed as a superior non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), Vioxx spent only a few years on the market before it was the focus of thousands of consumer lawsuits. Within five years of being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of arthritis and menstrual pain, the painkiller was linked to thousands of heart attacks, strokes and deaths. At the same time, the drug’s manufacturer, Merck, vehemently denied any problems."

"Within weeks of the Vioxx recall, injured patients across the nation were seeking justice in court. Up to 38,000 people died from heart attacks or strokes after taking Vioxx, with a total of about 160,000 patients injured," the DrugWatch dispatch - which was last modified in May of 2014 - added. "While some of the victims had had ongoing heart problems, many more did not."
"At the same time, Merck was continually trying to deflect major criminal charges related to its shady marketing and sales tactics and allegations of mismanagement. A U.S. Senate Finance Committee hearing investigated the drug company’s cozy ties with the FDA, questioned the company’s $195 million direct-to-consumer marketing plan and looked into possible Medicaid and Medicare fraud. Today, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, continues to question Merck’s relationship with the FDA, charging the FDA and Merck collaborated to hide the Vioxx side effects.

Although Merck agreed to pay $950 million and plead guilty to a federal misdemeanor related to its marketing practices, many were outraged by the settlement because the company still gleaned billions of dollars in Vioxx profits and was hardly reprimanded for the related deaths. The company did pay a $321 million criminal fine, $426 million to the federal government and $202 million to 48 states and the District of Columbia to settle civil claims that Merck’s illegal marketing influenced doctors to prescribe a drug they would not have otherwise prescribed.
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In May of 2009, The Guardian reported, "Private lobbying by an American pharmaceutical company saw government ministers back down from supporting British people who claim one of its failed drugs caused them heart attacks and strokes."
"A minister promised in parliament that the government would back their campaign against Merck, one of the world's largest drugs firms. But Whitehall documents obtained by the Guardian reveal Merck immediately put pressure on the minister and helped persuade the government to withdraw its support.

Merck is refusing to compensate hundreds of Britons who say their health was damaged even though the multinational has paid out more than £2bn to 44,000 people in America.
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The Guardian claimed, "Merck launched a campaign to head off government support for the alleged victims, with the help of a lobbying firm, APCO, according to official briefing notes."

"Kent Jarrell, executive director, leads APCO’s Washington, D.C.-based crisis management and litigation communications practice,"according to his APCP bio. "He advises CEOs, general counsels and boards of directors on the preparation for unfolding material events."

The APCO bio adds, "He continues to serve as an outside global manager for Merck’s communication efforts on the Vioxx litigation."

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