Executives of pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies must know and abide by myriad statutes and regulations. Laws governing the pricing, marketing and selling of health care products abound. Many carry stiff criminal penalties. And the federal government has aggressively investigated health care companies for alleged violations.

Not infrequently, a corporate entity has chosen to plead guilty to criminal violations rather than to risk conviction and debarment, which would prevent it from doing business with government agencies and bar others from receiving government reimbursement for using the company’s products. But the individual executives have long taken some comfort in the fact that most criminal laws only punish those who act with criminal intent.

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