Advice of counsel defense in US v. Lauren Stevens: dismissal of indictment is not necessarily good news for companies

The indictment last November of former GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in-house counsel, Lauren Stevens, for purportedly obstructing a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation into whether GSK marketed Wellbutrin, an antidepressant drug, off-label, falsifying and concealing documents, and making false statements sent shockwaves through the legal community. The federal government suffered two setbacks on 23 March 2011 in its efforts to prosecute Stevens. Ruling on a series of pending motions, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland rejected, as an initial matter, the government's efforts to deny Stevens the right to assert an advice-of-counsel defense to the charges against her. The district court then dismissed the indictment without prejudice because the government failed to instruct the grand jury correctly on the relevance of the advice of counsel defense before the grand jury decided to indict Stevens.

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