Roddy Boyd Outlines the Beat of Corporate Malfeasance

A fascinating interview with the brains behind non-profit journalism website Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation (SIRF).

A recent focus of Roddy Boyd’s non-profit investigative website Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation (SIRF) has been Chandler, Ariz.-based Insys Therapeutics, manufacturers of an extremely powerful Fentanyl spray product called Subsys. The spray is used primarily to treat cancer patient pain.

In a pair of posts dated Dec. 3 and Dec. 9, both of which use the headline nomenclature “Murder Incorporated,” Boyd covers a wide range of topics, including some background information related to the sudden resignation in November of company CEO Mike Babich. Challenging a statement made at the time by Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor, a source tells Boyd that Babich was forced out. And there’s more:

Earlier this year, Babich began a relationship with Natalie Levine, then a Boston area Insys sales executive who subsequently became pregnant; they married in the summer. (This is Babich’s second romance with a sales colleague; Kapoor has also dated two sales executives.) Aside from the fact that it’s unusual for a public company CEO to date someone who reports to him, the Babich-Levine relationship had another dynamic to it.

The newlyweds will probably be monitoring the developments in a rapidly expanding criminal suit filed in the U.S. District Court in Hartford where Heather Alfonso, an advanced practice registered nurse who was a high-volume Subsys prescriber over the past two years, pleaded guilty to accepting $83,000 in kickbacks. Federal prosecutors, according to the transcript from the July plea hearing, allege that the kickbacks prompted her to write Subsys prescriptions worth $1.6 million.

What appears to have brought the federal prosecutors’ intense scrutiny of the divorced mother of four was the baldness of the scheme. According to her plea, Alfonso was paid $1,000 each time she attended an Insys speakers event, where she was supposed to discuss with other medical professionals her clinical experience of Subsys. In reality, however, no other prescribers were present and prosecutors said the events amounted to nothing more than Insys-sponsored dinners and drinks for Alfonso and her co-workers.

The kind of reporting being done by former Fortune magazine staffer Boyd is much rarer today than when he first crossed over into journalism in the late 1990s. As he tells LinkedIn senior editor Katrina Booker in an interview posted this week, the paucity of financial and corporate fraud investigative journalism has a lot to do with the aggrandized heft of today’s corporations:

“The forces that a company can deploy against a journalist now, the muscle they can apply is 100 times stronger than it was seven or eight years ago. Back then, if a journalist started asking a company questions and it decided to start smacking that journalist around, it really would raise eyebrows. Editors would start pulling other reporters on to the story and say, ‘Hey go take a look. ‘We asked one question and they threatened a lawsuit? We’re going to investigate.’”

“Those days are over. I saw Spotlight last night. And to be able to take a team of reporters, and give them seven months to work on a story — and then they say we need another six weeks on top of it and we are going to be suing to open documents in three or four different places — that world is done. And companies know it.”

In the interview, Boyd also talks about how he blew the cover of another corporation this year, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International. SIRF can be found and bookmarked here.

Previously on FishbowlNY:
Fortune Poaches New York Post Wall Street Journo

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.