The sins of Valeant Pharmaceuticals are well known. Instead of spending to develop new drugs, Valeant bought out other drugmakers, then increased prices of lifesaving medicines by as much as 5,785 percent. Patients had no choice but to pay.
Valeant’s chief executive, J. Michael Pearson, was hauled into a 2016 Senate hearing and verbally thrashed by lawmakers. “It’s using patients as hostages. It’s immoral,” said Claire McCaskill, then the Democratic senator from Missouri. One executive went to prison for fraud. The company’s share price collapsed.
It hadn’t always been that way. Before Valeant’s fall, its stock was a Wall Street darling, attracting high-profile investors who tirelessly promoted the company on financial news channels. But one investor especially avoided the spotlight — a secretive hedge fund owned by McKinsey & Company, the world’s most prestigious consulting firm. McKinsey, in fact, had deep ties to the drugmaker: Four top Valeant officials, including Mr. Pearson, were McKinsey veterans, and the firm was advising Valeant on drug prices and acquisitions.