Drugmaker CEO Cleared After Former Executive Alleged Bullying

A generic-drug company’s board cleared its leader of inappropriate conduct after a former top executive alleged abusive, bullying behavior by the chief executive.

In a statement dated March 16, Iceland-based Alvogen Group’s board said there was no basis for concerns about the management style of Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert Wessman, and that no corrective action was needed. The review followed allegations from Halldor Kristmannsson, Alvogen’s former vice president of global corporate marketing, of abusive, bullying behavior by Wessman over a period of years.

Kristmannsson made the allegations in a whistle-blower complaint that he disclosed to Bloomberg Monday. He filed the complaint with Alvogen’s board in January. He said he was fired after the board released its conclusions.

Drugmaker CEO Cleared After Former Executive Alleged Bullying

The investigation highlights rising attention to conduct by corporate leaders in their dealings with colleagues and employees. Wessman controls businesses with hundreds of employees in Iceland, a country of about 357,000 people, and other nations, including the U.S.

Kristmannsson said in a statement to Bloomberg that he had personally experienced and witnessed numerous instances of inappropriate behavior by Wessman from 2010 to his departure from the company last week. He said he had asked for Wessman’s removal from the company, and permission to return to his own role.

The company and Kristmannsson offered contrasting views of whether Kristmannsson asked for a payment as well.

Kristmannsson said in his statement that he hadn’t made any financial claims against Alvogen or Alvotech, another company of Wessmann’s. A spokesman for the company said Kristmannsson demanded an unspecified payment in a Jan. 20 letter and threatened to sue Alvogen.

Wessman and Alvogen’s board members didn’t comment beyond the board’s statement.

Alvogen’s board hired Boston-based White & Case LLP to conduct the review. It included interviews with the complainant along with other current and former employees, according to the company’s statement, which didn’t mention Kristmannsson by name. Wessman recused himself from the process, the company said.

Along with supporting Wessman, the board “affirmed the company’s continued commitment to transparency and to enforcing policies to ensure a safe and healthy work environment,” according to the company statement.

Wessman is the founder of Alvotech, a developer and maker of biosimilar copies of biotech drugs that’s also based in Iceland, sold bonds in 2018 that include a requirement for an IPO within three years. Alvotech was valued at $1.5 billion in October.

He is also the chairman of Lotus Pharmaceutical Co., a maker of specialty generic drugs listed in Taiwan. Alvogen became the majority shareholder in Lotus in 2014, according to the company website.

Wessman has forged deals with drug giants such as Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. In August, Alvotech entered a partnership with Teva to commercialize five biosimilars in the U.S., with Wessman’s company responsible for development, registration and supply.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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