U.S. DOJ probes Olympus over kickbacks, false marketing claims

SINGAPORE--The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating allegations that Olympus representatives may have violated a pair of federal laws governing kickbacks and false claims in marketing its medical devices, the Japan-based company said.

The company said that since late last year, its U.S. subsidiary, Olympus Corporation of the Americas, has been discussing with the authorities issues that date back to November 2011. In compliance with financial disclosure rules, the statement warned that the company's operations could be "materially adversely affected."

Olympus said the "potential issues" involve U.S. laws regarding kickbacks to buyers of its medical equipment and making false claims about a product. The company promised to disclose promptly any developments as its discussions with the DOJ continue, but for now that was all it would say.

Also in 2011, Olympus President Michael Woodford was fired after he uncovered fraudulent deals that had been hiding losses over a 13-year period beginning in the 1990s. Reuters said the new case does not appear to be connected with that case, in which the fraud amounted to $1.7 billion. Bloomberg said Olympus had to erase $1.3 billion from its reported revenues in 5 years of financial results in that case.

The wire service also noted that Olympus, a leading producer of endoscopes and other internal instruments, revealed in 2012 that it had uncovered possible violations of U.S. law prohibiting any company operating in the United States from committing bribery elsewhere, in that case Brazil.

U.S. authorities have targeted devicemakers and other healthcare businesses in recent years for overcharging its health programs, Reuters said.

- here's Olympus' release
- get the Reuters story
- read more from Bloomberg

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