Has Amgen (NAS: AMGN) proven itself a card-carrying member of Big Pharma? Signs point in that direction, the Pacific Coast Business Times says. After all, the company not only announced its first dividend earlier this year -- and that's one of the hallmarks of a Big Pharma stock -- but has now embarked on a multibillion-dollar stock-buyback plan. And as anyone who follows Big Pharma knows, almost everyone who's anyone in that club is either in the middle of a buyback program or has wrapped one up in recent years.
We'd submit another bit of evidence: Amgen CEO Kevin Sharer has found his pay package in the spotlight. A recent special report by The Washington Post used Sharer as its prime example of a CEO with a whopping compensation plan at a time when regular workers' wages are stagnating -- and his own company's stock isn't performing up to par.
Big Pharma's top executives are familiar with those sorts of questions. Just consider Johnson & Johnson's Bill Weldon, Abbott Laboratories' Miles White, Schering-Plough's ex-chief Fred Hassan, even the comparatively lower-paid Novartis chairman and ex-CEO Daniel Vasella, whose compensation ranked him as the highest-paid company chief in Switzerland. They've seen their names and dollar signs in headlines plenty of times.
And then there's the less-attractive fact that Amgen is negotiating a marketing settlement with the U.S. Justice Department. The company recently announced that it was setting aside $780 million for a potential resolution to long-running allegations that it improperly promoted its anemia drugs Epogen and Aranesp. That figure puts it right in the middle of Big Pharma peers AstraZeneca (NYS: AZN) and Eli Lilly (NYS: LLY) , which wrapped up marketing allegations with $520 million and $1.4 billion, respectively.
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