Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses Medicine Advertising Canada Crime Google Government United States Technology

Top Google Executives Approved Illegal Drug Ads 287

Posted by timothy
from the regulations-trump-free-choice dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "PC Magazine reports that the U.S. government used convicted con artist David Whitaker, owner of an online business selling steroids and human growth hormone to U.S. consumers, to help federal agents in a sting operation against Google when he began advertising with Google with advertisements that included the statement 'no prescription needed,' clearly violating U.S. laws. Google's settlement with the U.S. government for $500 million blamed AdWords sales by Canadian pharmacies, who allegedly were selling drugs to U.S. consumers. 'We banned the advertising of prescription drugs in the U.S. by Canadian pharmacies some time ago,' Google said then. 'However, it's obvious with hindsight that we shouldn't have allowed these ads on Google in the first place.' Peter Neronha, the U.S. attorney for Rhode Island who led the multiagency federal task force that conducted the sting, claims that chief executive Larry Page had personal knowledge of the operation, as did Sheryl Sandberg, a Google executive who now is the chief operating officer for Facebook. In 2009 Google started requiring online pharmacy advertisers to be certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's Verified Internet Pharmacy Practices Sites program and hired an outside company to detect pharmacy advertisers exploiting flaws in the Google's screening systems."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Top Google Executives Approved Illegal Drug Ads

Comments Filter:
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @12:17PM (#38830423)

    That's when the American business school ethic takes over. No right or wrong, legal or illegal, no such thing as pride in workmanship or quality; just whatever it takes to make the books look good for the next quarter. And, if it's illegal hope you're not the sorry sucker holding the bag before you get a chance to cash out.

    • by wiedzmin (1269816)

      hope you're not the sorry sucker holding the bag before you get a chance to cash out.

      New RIM "CEO" comes to mind.

    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday January 26, 2012 @12:29PM (#38830585) Homepage Journal

      Sorry, I have worked with to many public business at the C*O level. frankly, you are wrong.
      is that some peoples point of view? yes. But it's not common, and it is not the 'American Business school ethic'

      Did you read the article? it's form a Con-Man with no collaboration, and it reads like a classic tale that would be woven by a pathological liar.
      So, long term Con-Man and liar, no confirmation, any of the alleged specifics are common knowledge, and then the feds do nothing with this information. His interaction with Google certainly doesn't sound like the typical advertiser interactions

      Too Many Red Flags. Let me know when a reputable source confirms it. Until then, I'll choose to ignore the pathological liar.

      • by Bob-taro (996889) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @12:52PM (#38830885)

        Sorry, I have worked with to many public business at the C*O level. frankly, you are wrong. is that some peoples point of view? yes. But it's not common, and it is not the 'American Business school ethic'

        Did you read the article? it's form a Con-Man with no collaboration, and it reads like a classic tale that would be woven by a pathological liar. So, long term Con-Man and liar, no confirmation, any of the alleged specifics are common knowledge, and then the feds do nothing with this information. His interaction with Google certainly doesn't sound like the typical advertiser interactions

        Too Many Red Flags. Let me know when a reputable source confirms it. Until then, I'll choose to ignore the pathological liar.

        Mod parent up. The whole thing COULD be true, but it's interesting how quick people can be to believe anything that backs up their preconceived notions (e.g. rich executives are evil) and then pile on with "yes, we all know that" sort of comments without even reading, much less questioning, the story.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2012 @12:54PM (#38830911)

        Read the actual article, in the Wall St Journal, not the crappy pcmag article that was based on it.

        http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424052970204624204577176964003660658-lMyQjAxMTAyMDIwNTEyNDUyWj.html [wsj.com]

        They cite numerous credible sources, including the US Attorney who led the investigation. Oh, and there's also the fact that Google admitted to wrongdoing as part of their settlement. Feel free to keep your head in the sand though.

      • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @01:08PM (#38831131)

        The wall Street Journal (who wrote the original article) is a pretty reputable source as these things go. So when they write all the same facts and then follow up with : [wsj.com]

        "Mr. Whitaker, who pleaded guilty and faced a maximum 65-year prison term, was sentenced in December to six years, following what federal prosecutors called "rather extraordinary" cooperation. He is due for release in two years."

        I tend to believe it.

        • by forand (530402)
          I think you missed geekoid's point. As the article of the WSJ article proclaims:

          Con Artist Starred in Sting That Cost Google Millions

          All of the information about executives knowing something is affirmed by a single self confessed con artist. What I think is fair to ask for is more confirmation of these affirmations by someone who is not a known liar or would otherwise gain from divulging such information.

          • All of the information about executives knowing something is affirmed by a single self confessed con artist. What I think is fair to ask for is more confirmation of these affirmations by someone who is not a known liar or would otherwise gain from divulging such information.

            And by the prosecutor : "Mr. Page, now Google's chief executive, knew about the illicit conduct, said Mr. Neronha, the U.S. attorney for Rhode Island who led the multiagency federal task force that conducted the sting."

        • by Hatta (162192)

          Why would you believe the word of a convicted criminal who is being rewarded for his "cooperation"? You don't think this reward might bias his information some?

    • It is also what you get when you provide incentives to your sales reps that ONLY look at how much money they brought in.Was there a bonus for denying shady deals? Was there an allowance to do due diligence on shady-looking companies? Or was it "your base salary is $5 an hour. Your commission is 50%. Don't slack."?

      If it was the latter, don't be surprised by your sales reps turning a blind eye to shady set ups. And by the way, execs are not immune to this. If you reward them for turning a blind eye, they will

    • by SaroDarksbane (1784314) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @12:32PM (#38830633)
      Yes, how dare they accept ads from companies willing to sell drugs to American consumers at a low cost. Clearly, the ethical party here is the government, who props up the monopolies of the pharmacy industry by force and prevents sick Americans from getting what they need to live at an affordable price.

      Won't somebody please think of the Big Pharma CEOs??
      • There is something to be said about banning the re-importation of US-branded drugs from Canada at a lower price. It's nuts that branded pills sent to Canada at a lower price become impotent when shipped back to the US.

        However, the story covers more than this. They were (pretending to) ship RU-486, the abortion drug, along with steroids and human growth hormone into the US, which is illegal. Moreover, it's not the word of a con man. There is evidence that top level Google executives were actually aware of th

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          This sounds like the most bullshit part of the article. Larry Page does not micromanage every single ad on Google, there's not enough time in the day for that. This was not some major advertising deal that would have gotten executives involved. Instead some lower level sales person screwed it up.

        • by Hatta (162192)

          They were (pretending to) ship RU-486, the abortion drug, along with steroids and human growth hormone into the US, which is illegal.

          Illegal, but not immoral or unethical. Laws that conflict with our natural right to biochemical self-determination are unjust.

      • Yes, lets allow everyone to sell drugs over the internet without any oversight or checks whatsoever. What's the worst that could happen, right ?

        • by Laxori666 (748529)

          What is the worst that could happen? Let's see...

          "Children might buy drugs!" Their parents should really have talked to them about this.

          "People might get high off drugs they buy online!" So what? They can do what they will with their bodies.

          "People will get high from these drugs and commit crimes to fund their drug habit/because they're high and belligerent!" People who harm others should be prosecuted, regardless of whether they're on drugs or not.

          "People will sell low-quality drugs online, advertising the

          • "People will sell low-quality drugs online, advertising them as even something else entirely!" If you buy drugs online and you don't do a thorough check to make sure the seller is reputable or you're getting what you asked for, then you kind of have it coming to you.

            Yes, it would require people to take more responsibility for their actions. But the benefit is that you wouldn't have the government-enforced pharmaceutical monopoly, which I think would benefit consumers far more than these other effects would hurt them.

            It doesn't have to because of a scam, it could just be an exotic allergy someone has and the pills could work great for the other 99% of the population. People cannot check this for themselves, that's why in most (all?) developed countries the government has an agency that does it for them and practitioners that can be held accountable to dispense advice. When there's no verification that what's in the box actually corresponds to what's claimed on the box people will get killed. When people can just decide

        • by swb (14022)

          Yeah, because it's not like we let people sell climbing rope, brake parts, or anything else that could cause people to get seriously hurt on the internet without any oversight or checks whatsoever.

          • If you're using a climbing rope or installing a brake part you probably have the expertise to check its quality. Who can test drugs at home ? Most of us aren't chemists. Even if you take the drug and it performs the function you bought it for it still could contain some cheaper active ingredient, or some binding agent, that some people could be allergic to. Drugs are dangerous, even the ones most people would consider harmless, when improperly used.

            • by Hatta (162192)

              You can come up with all the bullshit excuses you want, but the fact is the war on drugs is far more harmful than you could ever reasonably expect drugs to be. Even if you don't use drugs, you've lost civil liberties because of it.

    • by afabbro (33948) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @12:40PM (#38830735) Homepage

      That's when the American business school ethic takes over. No right or wrong, legal or illegal, no such thing as pride in workmanship or quality;

      I can think of endless private companies that could be described the same. Heck, just look at your local strip club.

      • by Pope (17780)

        I know, they keep importing Russian girls instead of hiring the locals!

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      LOL, you think it's when the company goes public that its executives decide to throw morals out the window?

      Sure it's true that some sociopaths use the "fiduciary duty to shareholders" aspect of a public company to justify their pre-existing lack of ethics and morals (despite the lack of shareholder lawsuits against companies that don't behave unethically). Just how much have you bought into that narrative that you think that's when the problem actually starts?

      Like, if Google was just as big but privately o

    • Back in college I worked for a very large computer retailer. One of the things the managers there did, was take hardware that they couldn't sell, and just store it in the back room. They wouldn't discount it, because their bonuses were dependent on the margin they maintained for the quarter, and if you dump a bunch of laptops at a discount, it adds up very quickly. Anyway, this went on for years, with each manager just piling up the problem for the next guy to deal with, before rotating into some new positi
      • by St.Creed (853824)

        Stupid margin calculation. They should have calculated the margin over product shipped to the store, not product sold. That would have ended that practice right there.

        Measure the wrong KPI's, get the wrong outcomes.

        And I don't blame the executives for responding to this the way they did. If you were measured based on lines of code produced, for say 50% of your income, YOU would find a way to pad the crap out of the code real fast too (and leave asap too, likely) - leaving your replacement with a maintenance

    • by Hatta (162192)

      What exactly is immoral about helping your fellow citizens fill a need? The only immoral action here is the US government enforcing anti-competetive, and frankly oppressive laws.

    • by shaitand (626655)

      It isn't just business school ethic. It's legal ethic is anything. Every for-profit business is now incorporated with a mission/objective that is something to the effect of "have the purpose of engaging in and may engage in any lawful business activity". This is actually suggested by the individual states in their paperwork to incorporate.

      So every employee is part of a team whose primary objective to seek profit in any manner that is technically legal. Every board member, exec, officer, manager, and grunt o

  • Oh noes the evil (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dyinobal (1427207) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @12:21PM (#38830465)
    Ya because Americans being able to get decently priced drugs, is such a crime. My father buys drugs from a company like the ones they mention in the ads. He can't afford drugs here in the USA even though the ones he gets from Canada are exactly the same, yet cost one tenth the price.
    • by afabbro (33948)

      Ya because Americans being able to get decently priced drugs, is such a crime.

      I agree on this, but as I recall, a lot of these shady "pharmacies" were selling unlimited quantities oxycontin and xanax to anyone who said "I have a toothache" or "I'm a little stressed" for grossly inflated prices. In other words, drug dealing.

      • Re:Oh noes the evil (Score:5, Informative)

        by Dyinobal (1427207) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @12:52PM (#38830871)
        The one my father uses doesn't sell pain killers, they sell actual medication. For things like arthritis, asthma and other such maladies. Though I imagine there is some truth to what you say but I'd imagine most people who want pain killers, just find a doctor who is willing to write them the prescription. They aren't terrible hard to find.
        • by alen (225700)

          try costco for drugs

          the way the canadian pharmacies work is the government buys up the drugs and they sell it to americans subsidized by the canadian government because the social health system is always short of money

          • No, the Canadian government said to the drug companies 'sell us the drugs at cost or we will invalidate your patents!'

            The drug company caved, thinking they had a captive market in the USA. Now the drug companies are learning the true cost of not fighting the Canadian government extortionists.

            I bet Canada will soon be paying market prices for its drugs. These contracts don't last forever.

            • by 0123456 (636235) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @01:38PM (#38831503)

              Now the drug companies are learning the true cost of not fighting the Canadian government extortionists.

              When did _not_ giving companies a government-granted monopoly become 'extortion'?

              I bet Canada will soon be paying market prices for its drugs.

              How can a price be a 'market price' when it's the result of a government-granted monopoly? If you want people to pay a market price for a drug, then eliminate drug patents.

    • by tomhath (637240)
      If all countries played fair in this I expect the prices in the US would go down by about 10% and the prices in countries like Canada would go up about 900%.
  • For Google, it's not that much, but $500 million for most of us would be.... wait for it... a bitter pill to swallow.
  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday January 26, 2012 @12:23PM (#38830501) Homepage Journal

    the Wall Street Journal has fallen far under murdochs ownership.

    Everything in the story comes from either a Con Artists claiming it's true, or known events that do not contridict the original story.

    I was ready to rail against this, but after reading the article, it's all shit.

    And then end?
    " allegedly from Jason Corriente's brother, saying the online entrepreneur died in a car crash."
    So, they got all the evidences and did nothing?

    Sorry, not buying it. Lets have the feds come forward to confirm this story.

    Of course, people on slashdot won't bother to consider the source, they'll just pounce on the headline to 'prove' their ideological belief about Google or business.

    • by Tsingi (870990)

      Of course, people on slashdot won't bother to consider the source, they'll just pounce on the headline to 'prove' their ideological belief about Google or business.

      Which begs the question: Where's Bonch?

      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        Of course, people on slashdot won't bother to consider the source, they'll just pounce on the headline to 'prove' their ideological belief about Google or business.

        Which begs the question: Where's Bonch?

        ah HAH! That's not begging the question! [wikipedia.org]

    • by westlake (615356)

      I was ready to rail against this, but after reading the article, it's all shit.

      I can see 500 million reasons to believe it's all true.

      The Wall Street Journal has an excellent page-one story today on how federal agents caught Google deliberately breaking the law so it could make money off sites selling drugs online. That case ended with a settlement in which Google avoided criminal prosecution by paying the feds more than half a billion dollars.

      The Journal Takes Us Inside the Google Drugs Sting [cjr.org]

    • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @01:35PM (#38831467)

      So you don't trust the con man, how about Google itself :

      "Google acknowledged in the settlement that it had improperly and knowingly assisted online pharmacy advertisers allegedly based in Canada to run advertisements for illicit pharmacy sales targeting U.S. customers."

      Or the prosecutor :

      "Mr. Page, now Google's chief executive, knew about the illicit conduct, said Mr. Neronha, the U.S. attorney for Rhode Island who led the multiagency federal task force that conducted the sting."
      "But the company's ad executives worked with Mr. Whitaker to find a way around Google rules, according to prosecutors and Mr. Whitaker's account."
      "The federal task force, which also included the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigation, was preparing criminal charges against the company and its executives for aiding and abetting criminal activity online, prosecutors said."
      "Suffice to say this was not two or three rogue employees at the customer service level doing this on their own," said Mr. Neronha, the U.S. attorney. "This was corporate decision to engage in this conduct."

      No ? How about the shareholders :

      "Six private shareholder lawsuits have so far been filed against Google's executives and board members, alleging they damaged the company by not taking earlier action against the illegal pharmacy ads."

    • the Wall Street Journal has fallen far under murdochs ownership.

      Depending on how you word that, I'd agree. It's very obviously under Murdoch's direct influence. The decision to publish this story (as opposed to any other) is almost certainly in retaliation to Google's public opposition to SOPA/PIPA, about which Murdoch has already vociferously expressed his (ahem) disapproval.

  • by revscat (35618) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @12:26PM (#38830555) Journal

    I should preface this by saying that I am no Google fan. I think they have made many poor decisions over the past few years, and the GPYW initiative has caused me to switch over to DuckDuckGo full time.

    Having said that...

    Why is it illegal for Canadian drug companies to advertise their goods in the United States? The US has insanely high drug prices, and Canadian imports of those same products are (or could be) beneficial to the lives, health, and finances of who knows how many people. This is an unjust law, and am having an incredibly difficult time finding a justification for it.

    This seems like yet another instance of the pharmaceutical lobby protecting their vast profits from competition.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      The same reason it's illegal to import DVDs from Africa to sell in the US. The drug companies find they can sell drugs in the US for a LOT more than they can almost anywhere else, so they do. Allowing imports from other countries would defeat that.

      • by causality (777677) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @01:09PM (#38831135)

        The same reason it's illegal to import DVDs from Africa to sell in the US. The drug companies find they can sell drugs in the US for a LOT more than they can almost anywhere else, so they do. Allowing imports from other countries would defeat that.

        You see, when they say "globalism" and "global economy" what they mean is that corporations can off-shore to get the cheapest prices available for human labor.

        When humans want to do things the other way around by making an "off-shore" international purchase to get the cheapest prices available for goods, that's a crime and suddenly the government wants to enforce a brand of protectionism.

        It's standard hypocrisy.

    • Check this post [slashdot.org]. IANAL.
    • This has been covered every this story comes up on Slashdot. Unregulated, unlicensed pharmacies are dangerous--not only do people get drugs without a doctor's prescription, but there's no guarantee that the drugs are even the right drugs or that they've been handled properly. Counterfeit drugs, outdated drugs, contaminated drugs, mislabeled drugs--anything goes. And there are other problems, like the fact they can sell to minors or that there is nothing legally enforcing confidentiality like with a legitima

  • How is "no prescription required" an obvious violation? This would have to be specific to each drug, and the person who is looking at it would have to know what drugs require a prescription. The average person depends on the pharmacist, drug retailer, or doctor, to know what requires a prescription. if it's on the shelf (even virtual), people assume it must be legal. If the government wants people to quit buying drugs from Canada, then it needs to mandate "fair and balanced" drug pricing.

  • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @12:51PM (#38830861) Homepage

    And why would you want to buy them without a prescription? That seems pretty silly, really.

    • by bky1701 (979071) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @01:00PM (#38831001) Homepage
      Not everyone can afford the alternative.
    • by coyote_oww (749758) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @01:11PM (#38831163)

      This issue is not whether you have a prescription or not, but whether you need them. You can know you need drugs without having a prescription.

      In my own case, I am on some pricey immuno-suppressive drugs. One is Prograf, which is a brand name for Tacrolimus. I know I will need this in some quantity for the rest of my life. I am currently well insured, so it's not an issue. However, I would still need Tac if I was unemployed, and I would certainly consider getting it from a reputable non-US pharmacy. The prescription I have for this is issued annually - 90 days + 3 refills, or 30 days +11 refills, typically. Now, if i wanted to get really cheap, i'd stop seeing the doctor, get the lab work done on my own dime (i'd have to pay for it anyhow) and do my own analysis of the results (not rocket science, desired tac-levels for post-transplant are well established, and printed on the lab report. Then I'd buy drugs to fill the need at the lowest cost available internationally.

      Really, once you know your getting accurate dosing and purity, the government doesn't have much additional to offer.

      The idea that pharmacies should be forced to provide drugs cheaply outside the US, and Americans can fund R&D and profit margins is unfair. Those costs should be spread equally amongst all the developed nations of the world, not just the US. So, I am in favor of opening the borders, or imposing some stiff taxes on cost differentials between the US and other countries.

    • by causality (777677)

      And why would you want to buy them without a prescription? That seems pretty silly, really.

      That question is not relevant. The relevant question is, "if consenting adults want to do this with their own bodies and their own finances, why would you want to send men with guns after them to stop them by force or threat of force?" That's what needs justification.

  • Illegal != Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tylersoze (789256) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @12:53PM (#38830907)

    Yet another example highlighting the fact that "illegal" does not necessarily equate to "wrong".

  • by melted (227442) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @01:04PM (#38831065) Homepage

    How about we instead turn our rightful indignation against Big Pharma and ask why the fuck is it not legal to buy the same drugs from Canada for less? When I moved to the US, I was shocked by how badly US residents are being gouged when it comes to pharmaceuticals. Nowhere else in the world do drugs cost as much as they do in the US. In some places the same exact drugs by the same exact companies are sold at 1/5th to 1/10th the price.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      How about we instead turn our rightful indignation against Big Pharma and ask why the fuck is it not legal to buy the same drugs from Canada for less?

      If it's not legal, then the US government must have pased a law banning it. So how about you instead turn your rightful indignation against them?

  • Read the original article. Read Google's non-prosecution agreement with DOJ [googlemonitor.com], in which Google admits to felonies and agrees to pay $500 million to avoid criminal prosecution. All this has been out in the public record for months.

    This was not about "Canadian pharmacies". DOJ was led to investigate Google because they were investigating some Mexican drug dealer who had an "online pharmacy" as a side business. DOJ set up a blatantly illegal web site, "www.SportsDrugs.net, designed to look "as if a Mexican

  • by tekrat (242117) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @01:42PM (#38831561) Homepage Journal

    Come on all you Ron Paul supporters, let's hear it. We *should* be able to buy Canadian drugs at 1/10 the price of what we're being ripped off in the USA for the same crap.

    And before you bring up safety/prescriptions/handling/lifethreating issues as a factor, consider this: We buy food from China, which has far less controls regarding safety than Canada does.

    That Apple Juice you're buying in Walmart? Madde from Chinese grown Apples. Who knows what those apples were exposed to, what toxins are in the ground the were grown in, how they were handled/processed and what else the factory that makes this juice also makes?

    The Apple Juice you buy in Walmart could be as deadly, or even more deadly than any Canadian Pharmacy or drug "internet purchase".

    The *ONLY* reason that drugs are as heavily regulated as they are in this country is to protect Corporate interests (aka BigPharma). There is NO OTHER reason. Any other excuse you've been given by the talking heads on TV is window dressing.

    And if we had a real free market economy, sure, some people would die, but that's the way free market economies work. Frankly, that's the way this economy works as well, regulated or not.

    Think about how many people die because they are denied health care due to insurance rates, or they can't afford the medication they've been prescribed.

    No matter which way you go, people are going to die, that's just a reality. But to say that you're saving lives by not allowing Canadian Pharmacies to sell in the USA is a complete lie.

  • Rationalization (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MikeMo (521697)
    I am amazed by the lengths to which people on this site will go to rationalize Google's behavior. It's not the morality of advertising drugs that is at question here, it's the morality of knowingly allowing something which is illegal. If Page really knew (as the GOVERNMENT, not the conman, asserts) that they were accepting ads that explicitly stated "no prescription required" then he knowingly broke the law for profit. Plain and simple.

    Whether it SHOULD be illegal has no bearing on the issue.
  • consider this (Score:4, Informative)

    by alphatel (1450715) * on Thursday January 26, 2012 @02:37PM (#38832313)
    In all your yapping about who's right, wrong or has to support big pharma think of this:

    Number of Google employees that the government considered sending to prison: 0
    Number of people selling less than 1 ounce of marijuana sentenced to federal prison: 5,452
    Number of drug arrests per minute in the USA: 25

You can't take damsel here now.

Working...