Has Pfizer become the Corporate World’s Modern Day Vigilante?
Pfizer recently sealed a $160 billion deal with Allergan. This move not only creates the largest drug maker in the world, by sales. It also provides a means of escaping high corporate tax rates in the U.S., by moving headquarters to Allergan’s Dublin base. Many observers wonder if Pfizer stands to pay a price for this decision, and how it plans to overcome it if this happens.
Support for Pfizer
In spite of the controversial move, the company continues to receive support from the business community. In fact, several business groups and lawmakers from both parties stated their hopes in this deal to encourage congress to take action. They want congress to make doing business in America a more attractive venture.
Lobbyists in other countries, like Australia, also weighed in on the matter. These activists believe their own governments should learn a lesson from this example, before their local companies make the same move. In essence, Pfizer managed to gain worldwide support. You could say the company became a modern day vigilante overnight.
Perhaps for this reason, Pfizer remains unapologetic for the decision. Chief Executive, Ian Read, a staunch critic of U.S. corporate tax rates, has declared his opinions on the matter several times over the years. Even in the past, he made many attempts to seek out deals that would lessen the company’s taxes, and pushed forward despite the potential for harsh criticism.
The Effects of the Inversion
One would think the loss of taxes from corporate giants like Pfizer creates large gaps in the tax revenue. In which case, the American people would rise up in protest once they began to feel a tightening of government spending. This public outcry would serve the government’s interest well.
However, a recent study by the Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management suggests that oddly enough, inversions may actually drive up American tax collections. This happens because companies now bring money they were previously hoarding overseas back to their U.S. operations and hand it out to shareholders.
This lessens the effectiveness of any smear campaign the government might make against Pfizer and other companies who make similar moves. Even so, it might not prevent them from trying. This could create problems for Pfizer as a brand, if consumers begin to view the company as an anti-American symbol. But even this, seems unlikely, as the company moved its address, but not its operations.
Who is the Real Villain?
So, while the U.S. government would love to paint a villain out of Pfizer for deserting America, the company manages to maintain the image of a vigilante. Whether the personality of Ian Read, or public relations experts created this image remains unclear. However, what is clear is that the business community and law-makers respect and even understand Read’s decision to relocate headquarters to avoid taxes.
Even so, there is no telling what matter of policies and laws with retroactive power congress may make to force Pfizer to pay the price for its actions. Still, this decision may only create more backlash for the government and conjure up a PR nightmare for the administration.
In the meantime, the world can only wait with bated breath to see what congress has up its sleeves to prevent this from happening again.