Education of Exec Tapped to Head Abbott's Spinoff Overstated

Education of Exec Tapped to Head Abbott's Spinoff Overstated [Chicago Tribune]

From Chicago Tribune (IL) (September 28, 2012)

Sept. 28--For at least a six-year period ending in 2007, Abbott Laboratories falsely stated in federal regulatory filings the educational background of Richard Gonzalez, the prospective chief executive of the pharmaceutical company it plans to spin off Jan. 1.

Gonzalez, Abbott’s senior vice president of global pharmaceuticals who last October was named chairman and CEO of AbbVie, did not graduate from college, despite being listed in at least six annual proxy filings as receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston and a master’s degree from the University of Miami, both in biochemistry.

Abbott spokeswoman Melissa Brotz on Thursday blamed the misstatements on an "administrative error" that occurred when Gonzalez’ company biography was written "many years ago." Brotz confirmed that Gonzalez, 58, does not have a college degree.

She said she did not know how or when the error occurred or by whom the false information was discovered. Abbott, she said, corrected the information on its website as soon as the error was identified.

Brotz said the company stands behind Gonzalez and said there was no deliberate attempt to falsify his resume.

"There is no issue with respect to Mr. Gonzalez’s educational background or his ability to lead AbbVie," she said. "He has a distinguished, 30-year career with Abbott and a proven track record."

The errors, which first appeared in a 2002 proxy statement filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission after Gonzalez became a director, were first reported Thursday by Crain’s Chicago Business.

The bolstered resume continued to appear in annual proxies through 2007, when Gonzalez briefly retired from the company and left its board. He rejoined the company as president of Abbott Ventures Inc. in 2009 but has not rejoined its board.

Gonzalez’s educational background is not included in his bio that appears in AbbVie’s preliminary SEC filings. On the Abbott website, it has since been updated to say Gonzalez "was a research biochemist at the University of Miami School of Medicine and attended the University of Houston, majoring in biochemistry."

pfrost@tribune.com -- Twitter: @peterfrost

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Posted: September 2012


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