A former vice president and general counsel for Bio-Rad Laboratories said he was fired after he warned the company’s audit committee that the diagnostics firm was bribing foreign governments for contracts, a federal lawsuit asserts.
Sanford Wadler filed a wrongful termination lawsuit Wednesday in San Francisco saying his whistleblower claims were ignored and the company wanted him to “turn a blind eye” to alleged bribery in Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Bio-Rad, headquartered in Herculies, Calif., manufactures clinical diagnostic tools to separate, purify and identify proteins and bacteria for life sciences companies. In November 2014, the company agreed to pay $55 million to the U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission to settle criminal and civil charges that it allegedly paid kickbacks to government officials in Russia, Vietnam and Thailand.
Wadler, who became general counsel in 1989, was named vice president in 2012.
The lawsuit alleges that in 2009, Bio-Rad’s corporate officers became aware that its overseas employees had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by making payments to government officials.
Wadler became concerned that no documentation of Bio-Rad’s conduct in China could be found, despite allegations of potential bribery there. He believed this alone was a books and records violation, according to the lawsuit.
“Due to repeated stonewalling” by the CEO and CFO Wadler became suspicious that corruption issues in China were known to top management, the suit states.
He took his concerns to the corporate board’s audit committee in 2013, according to the suit.
Several months later and just as the company was to meet with the SEC about the issues, Wadler was suddenly terminated and escorted out of the building.
Wadler seeks back pay and damages, including punitive damages.
Case: Wadler v. Bio-Rad Laboratories, No. 15-cv-2356