Translating Innovation

Ten years ago, after Enron Corp. declared bankruptcy, Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest research-based pharmaceuticals firm, made a push to grow their compliance division. Indrani Franchini, who today serves as chief compliance counsel for Global Pharmaceuticals at Pfizer, came aboard in 2003 as one of the first members of the new team. Before starting at Pfizer, Franchini’s résumé was already full of international work including time with the Supreme Court of Argentina and four years with Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP, where she was an associate with the cross-border financing team in both Japan and New York. Franchini shares with Hispanic Executive how she became a pioneer in compliance work at Pfizer and the secret behind building an innovative team.

As Pfizer has a presence in over 70 countries, its chief compliance counsel for Global Pharmaceuticals, Indrani Franchini, says she loves the opportunity to work in Latin America and Asia.

My mother is from Puerto Rico and father is from Guyana. He was the first doctor in my family on both sides and my brother and I really looked up to him. For many years, I thought I wanted to be a brain surgeon and then I found out very quickly after being a candy striper in junior high that I couldn’t stand needles or the sight of blood. I ended up in the pharmaceutical industry, which has always been funny to me because it’s about as close as a lawyer can get to the medical field.

I knew I wanted to be a lawyer in high school when I interned at the prosecutor’s office in Detroit. It was amazing to see the prosecutors defend people and seek justice. My hope was always to combine my passion for law with my love of international travel. Being from a biracial household, I was always interested in different cultures and enjoyed learning about different countries. After spending time in Japan on a Fulbright Fellowship, I went to Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP where my work performing cross-border financings allowed me to spend time in Japan as a junior associate.

By 2003, Pfizer was fully committed to establishing an industry-leading compliance program and was building out the team; I was one of the key hires on this team. I came over not knowing a ton about compliance, but I knew how to do project finance work. I understood that compliance was about evaluating the risks, the benefits, and pursuing a way to work together. That’s still very well in line with what I do today.

Pfizer really deserves credit when it comes to my role as a pioneer in the field of compliance. They never said, “This is how it should be done.” They left a lot of room for innovation. I’ve been given the opportunity to think about new ways to monitor, new ways to audit, and most importantly to me, new ways to train my team. Even my group is a testament to how Pfizer supports pioneering work. They see that there is no “one size fits all” for this job.

When I started to build my team a couple of years ago, it was fashioned in such a way that it ultimately mirrored the business itself. I have a direct report in each of the pharmaceutical business units, which includes primary-care, specialty-care, oncology, and established-care business units as well as a unit that looks at emerging markets and is set up geographically.

There are two things that I stress to my team: communication and candor. There is a lot of pressure in this business and we’re always under great regulatory scrutiny. The space we operate in has few black-and-white answers—we operate in the gray. My team spends a lot of time coming up with solutions that are unique and we strive to always be honest with one another. When you are dealing with a space with no clear answers you have to feel comfortable challenging each other. That’s how we come to the best solutions.

“When I started to build my team a couple of years ago, it was fashioned in such a way that it ultimately mirrored the business itself. I have a direct report in each of the pharmaceutical business units,” says Franchini.

In my current position, I don’t take part in cases. The way I get involved is by talking to regulators and other governmental agencies about our compliance program, Pfizer’s approach, and what we’re doing as a company to make sure we’re ahead of the ball. This means I also explain how we’re managing risk and how we deal with difficult situations when things don’t go exactly as planned. Those are the opportunities in which I get to be an advocate for the company’s compliance program even though it’s not necessarily in a courtroom setting.

I still work internationally as well, as Pfizer is in over 70 countries around the world. As the risks and markets are different everywhere, it is important to make sure we have the right policies and procedures, and make sure we hold ourselves up to the highest standards when it comes to anti-bribery and anti-corruption. I love the global part of my job, especially working with Asia and Latin America.

I can’t imagine doing anything else in the near future. My space here is continuing to develop and I don’t feel as if I’m ever not challenged. I’ve never had a day where I’ve been even the smallest bit bored and that it truly very fulfilling. I see myself continuing to work in the compliance area and I look forward to discovering new and innovative ways to face the challenges we see both as an industry and as a corporation.