Editor's note: A prior version of this story indicated that Allergan's action to recover its legal costs was a lawsuit, instead of a request submitted to the court for reimbursement of costs. The Fool regrets this error.
This Motley Fool series examines things that just aren't right in the world of finance and investing. Here's what's got us riled up this week. If something's bugging you, too -- and we suspect it is -- go ahead and unload in the comments section below.
Today's subject: Corporations have to protect their assets, and sometimes that lands them in court. Companies sue each other over patent infringements. Retailers prosecute shoplifters to deter others from doing the same. I've got no problem with that.
But sometimes companies cross the line from defender to bully. Monsanto
Today's nominee, drugmaker Allergan
Why you should be indignant: Dee Spears, whose daughter with cerebral palsy died after using Allergan's Botox to relax her clenched muscles, sued Allergan. The drug, which is made of the neurotoxin found in the bacteria that causes botulism, is commonly used as a wrinkle remover, but it's is also used for more severe muscle clenching.
A jury found in favor of Allergan last month. Now the drugmaker has filed a claim to recover $460,000 in court costs.
Even if Allergan recovers its costs, the drugmaker doesn't really need it. Based on last year's income, $460,000 would be a rounding error: just 0.07% of the net income. It appears the countersuit is simply a way to make an example of the woman.
But is the threat of a claim like this going to stop other patients from suing Allergan? There are 14 other cases with plaintiffs accusing the drugmaker of hiding the dangers of Botox, but I doubt it will cause them to drop their lawsuits. Nor do I see plaintiffs dropping their cases against drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline
Allergan's claim does nothing but taint the image of the company, much like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) looked bad in suing a woman for $1.92 million for downloading and sharing 24 songs. Sure, the trade organization could claim that it was protecting the rights of its members -- Universal, EMI, Sony
As far as I'm concerned, the person who came up with the phrase "there's no such thing as bad press" was an idiot. Customers rule the show, and they can (and will) mobilize against a company that alienates them. When Johnson & Johnson
What now: Clearly I think Allergan has stepped over the line. If you're a shareholder and you feel the same way, you might consider calling up the investor relations department and letting someone know how you feel.
If Allergan continues to go through with its claim, I can't see how it'll benefit anyone but perhaps Medicis Pharmaceutical, which has a competing anti-wrinkle injection, Dysport. If enough patients decide that Allergan is a corporate bully, they may take their crow's feet to a different company until Allergan decides to eat crow.
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