4

It is not my main job, but as way to increase my knowledge in a different field, when I was asked by a close friend to assist him in his business of selling consumers products (he promised me some money under the table as well, but for me the important factor to accept was the experience to be gained).

Although for me it was difficult to adjust in this new field and develop the methodology to work, I initially managed to check his suggested new products as regards safety for the general public. The concept of my work was that my friend is to prepare a recipe and myself to check for its safety for use from the general public.

My friend did not want to wait for me to finish all the required documents in order for him to release the new products to the market, and so he released the products (it is illegal as my documents are supposed to submitted to a specific poison centre before any release and all safety documents need to be ready before release) without asking my opinion.

When I tried to finish all the work, I understood (unfortunately I picked it up late in the last phase when I was scrutinizing the work to be submitted) that some of his recipes had a similar component repeated under different trade names and produced using different methods and raw materials of production (but it is registered under the same number). Under the rules (actual legislation) that I am supposed to follow, that component is the same and in the particular case is in excess (as is repeated under different names), and the product is not supposed to be released as is (it would require a different label and other type of registrations).

I suggested to my friend to change the recipe, I even suggested him other raw materials and “mixology”, but he told me it is too late as they are released. He seems reluctant to address the problem this week.

Probably I will be asked to submit the documents with manipulated data that would render the products safe as is. I am inclined to deny and stop all relevant work, as it seems unprofessional for me to prepare documents for products that eventually could harm people because of wrong labeling.

How would you suggest to handle the professional relationship with my friend?

6

Preparing and submitting data that you know to be false in order to satisfy safety regulation that you know these products violate is not something you want to be a part of, especially when you are taking on all of that risk in exchange for "experience".

Your friend has not been very professional in this. He manufactured (and released!) these products without particularly caring about the safety of his customers or whether or not he was complying with the law. Not only did he not wait for your report on whether or not the products were safe and in compliance with regulations, he did not wait for legally required pre-release procedures to be followed, so he knows he is breaking the law already (product safety aside).

I would immediately sever professional ties with this friend and withdraw from the entire project. I would also refuse any "under the table" payments. Finally, I would send written communication indicating that you are no longer going to work on the project so that there is a paper trail indicating your disagreement with his practices and that you quit as soon as you discovered them. Under no circumstances would I allow my name to be attached to any documentation submitted to a regulatory agency. I would also consult with a lawyer to determine what your legal exposure is here.

You hired me to help with some necessary work in developing and releasing these products, and that's what I agreed to do. I did not agree to participate in fraud. At this point that is all that I would be able to do, and so I cannot continue to work with you.

6

I am not a Lawyer and I am not qualified to provide legal advice, but:

If you know or suspect that your friend is acting illegally, the first thing I would do is make it very clear to them that you are terminating this working relationship immediately and that you will not be providing any further assistance in this area. I would do this verbally at first (as putting anything in writing could incriminate yourself) and then consult a lawyer asap.

I think it is also important to consult a lawyer that has experience in this area, because you may have already incurred some level of legal liability on your part if you have a) been involved in doing something illegal and/or b) have knowledge that your friend has done something illegal and have not reported it to the relevant authorities. If, as you say, this is a matter of compliance with national regulations, then it could be a serious matter.

I would strongly advise against complying with any request made by your friend, if you suspect that it may be illegal, as you may be incurring a legal liability. If in doubt, don't do it.

3

Your friend may not be your friend soon, but that may be the least of your worries.

Do you want to be friends with someone who would deliberately expose you to such legal danger?

Someone who is himself a criminal (and seemingly willing to risk killing strangers for money)?

Think of yourself first (as he obviously does). Terminate the relationship, and do not worry about his feelings, or listen to his pleas of “just this once; I stand to lose so much money otherwise” which I am confident you will hear.

Get out now, and see a lawyer. Depending on your situation and your conscience, reporting him to the authorities may be advisable. Remember, he is not your friend.

3

The way you describe this, the product is actually unsafe. You found out that the same ingredient is added twice under two different names, so there is too much of it in the product. Your friend seems to be clueless about what he is doing, and just wanting to make cash by selling a product to the public that is unsafe.

So this is not a matter of acting illegally, it is a matter of your friend endangering people, and you know it. If this comes out, and it is found out that you as a competent person in the field allowed this to happen, you may be in trouble. Especially if a scapegoat is needed - would you want to make a guess who will be thrown under the bus?

2

In that case i would echo what others have advised.

Stop taking any payments/gifts from your friend.

Leave a paper/email trail showing your strong disagreement towards his activities and sever ties with him immediately. Get legal help and set the sequence of events right so that there is enough evidence for the release date of the product and your report which was due submission.

1

Most companies now have a compliance team or a speakup forum where you could submit this case anonymously. Also, companies appreciate integrity and general concern for consumer health. If your company has a non-retaliation policy towards whistleblowers i would try and find that forum and speak anonymously.

Your situation is dire as it concerns not just your career prospects but the general wellbeing of your customers. Company will appreciate if you post the problem with a solution. How many units have been released and is there a risk management team which usually takes care of faulty products and can ask the customers to return this batch? If you could provide such details as a solution i believe that would be the right thing to do both professionally and morally.

Hope this helps.

  • I do not have any written contract with him and I act (unofficially) as his scientific advisor for his small company, but I am neither an employee nor a contractor to his company in official terms. My close friendship with him permitted that. Until now I have not signed any document (related to consumers products) that could be used in any authorities audit. – Ge Peace Oct 18 '18 at 20:43

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