Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter of California is known across the country for using her financial acumen to poke holes in the excuses of the nation's top executives—often employing her trademark whiteboard for visual aid to truly hammer down the point.
This past Tuesday was no different, when Porter put Richard Gonzalez—CEO of pharmaceutical company Abbvie—through the wringer at a House Oversight and Reform committee hearing on stratospheric drug prices.
Gonzalez tried to take refuge in the age-old claim that American drug prices are steep due to the costs of the research and development incurred by pharmaceutical companies.
Congresswoman Porter wasn't buying it, and she quickly called him out.
Porter pressed Gonzales on Abbvie's expenses from 2013 to 2018 across a range of sectors such as litigations and settlements ($1.6 billion), marketing and advertising ($4.71 billion), executive compensation ($334 million), and—of course—on research and development ($2.45 billion).
But one number stood out from the rest. When it came to stock buybacks (where a company repurchases its own stock to increase shareholder ownership) and dividend payments to shareholders, the company spent a whopping $50 billion—more than 20 times the money put toward the research and development Gonzalez claimed drove up drug prices.
Porter was unflinching in her rebuke:
"You're spending all this money to make sure you make money rather than spending money to invest in, develop drugs, and help patients with affordable lifesaving drugs. You lie to patients when you charge them twice as much for an unimproved drug, and then you lie to policymakers when you tell us that R&D justifies those price increases."
She went on to indict the pharmaceutical industry as a whole:
"The Big Pharma fairytale is one of groundbreaking R&D that justifies astronomical prices, but the pharma reality is that you spend most of your company's money making money for yourself and your shareholders. And the fact that you're not honest about this with patients and policymakers, that you're feeding us lies that we must pay astronomical prices to get innovative treatments is false. The American people, the patients, deserve so much better."
Social media agreed, and praised Porter for her latest takedown.
They almost felt sorry for Gonzalez. Almost.
We can't wait to see the next time the whiteboard makes a cameo.