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Business Briefs

Bayer in new drug scandal; German execs told to disclose salaries; industry group wants Germany in Iraq; EU likes German reform plans

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Bayer Pharmaceuticals finds itself on the defensive again.


Bayer Subsidiary Accused of Selling Unsafe Drug

"The New York Times" is reporting that a subsidiary of Bayer AG, the Leverkusen-based chemical and pharmaceuticals company, sold an old version of its blood-clotting medicine to Asian and Latin America in the mid-80s, even though the use of the drug increased the chances of HIV infection. The medicine in question, Factor VIII concentrate, was made with pools of blood plasma at a time when scientists did not have a test to screen for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. At the same time, the subsidiary, Cutter Biological, is reported to have sold a safer, heat-treated version of the drug in the U.S. and Europe. The Times report asserts that the company pushed for distributors in Asia to "use up" old stocks since the product could no longer be marketed in the U.S. and Europe. Bayer officials said Cutter "behaved responsibly, ethically and humanely" when it sold the older product.

German Executives Should Disclose Salaries

In the future, Germany’s top executives should disclose their salaries and itemize their constituent parts. That was the message Wednesday evening from a commission of experts put in place by the Federal Government to promote more transparent management. The commission is lead by Gerhard Cromme, chairman of the board of ThyssenKrupp. Currently, salary disclosure is only a non-binding suggestion in the German Corporate Governance Codex. Of the 30 companies listed on the DAX, only Altana, Bayer, Deutsche Bank, MAN, SAP, Schering and ThyssenKrupp disclose how much their directors earn.

Industry Group Wants German Participation in Iraq

The head of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), Michael Rogowski, has demanded that Germany take part in the peacekeeping operations in Iraq. Otherwise, he warns, German industry will not play a role in the reconstruction of the country. Rogowski said he was convinced that German firms would have a good chance of securing contracts in Iraq after a new government is put in place. The BDI chief said in his opinion, German business had not suffered from the German-American tensions arising from the Iraq war. While he said he predicted a normalization of relations between the two countries, he said that one thing still had to be done: Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and U.S. President George Bush had to "find a way to talk to one another."

EU Commission backs German Reform Plans

The EU Commission has backed Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s controversial reform plans in unusually strong terms, but at the same time, insisted on greater efforts to get the plans enacted. The reform plan "Agenda 2010" is a positive and long-overdue step, according to the Commission. Now the strategy should be actually implemented, said the EU’s Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Pedro Solbes. According to him, further measures to reform the German economy are called for. The "Agenda 2010" has been attacked by left-wing members of Schröder’s Social Democrats as well as the Germany’s powerful trade unions.