Judge finds Pfizer responsible for $1.72M in sewer payments

In this May 4, 2014 photo, the Pfizer logo is displayed on the exterior of a former Pfizer factory in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Pfizer says it does not intend to make a takeover offer for British drugmaker AstraZeneca. The Monday, May 26, 2014 announcement comes a week after AstraZeneca's board rejected a proposed $119 billion buyout offer from Pfizer, the world's second-biggest drugmaker by revenue. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
In this May 4, 2014 photo, the Pfizer logo is displayed on the exterior of a former Pfizer factory in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Pfizer says it does not intend to make a takeover offer for British drugmaker AstraZeneca. The Monday, May 26, 2014 announcement comes a week after AstraZeneca's board rejected a proposed $119 billion buyout offer from Pfizer, the world's second-biggest drugmaker by revenue. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Posted: July 20, 2014

The Borough of West Chester early this week won the latest episode in a years-long court battle with drugmaker Pfizer over sewer payments owed to the borough by Wyeth, the pharmaceutical company that Pfizer bought in 2009 for $68 billion.

Chester County Court of Common Pleas Judge Robert J. Shenkin ruled that Pfizer must give the borough $1.72 million for missed payments under a 1984 agreement that called for Wyeth to make quarterly payments of about $200,000 for the life of the Goose Creek Sewer Treatment plant.

The $1.72 million covers missed payments only through the third quarter of 2013, so the borough is still looking for money.

"The borough remains hopeful that Wyeth, now controlled by Pfizer Inc., will demonstrate corporate responsibility by abiding by the court's decision, bringing their past-due sewer account up to date, and paying their future obligations in a timely fashion," Borough Council president Jordan C. Norley said in a statement.

Mixing sometimes-toxic chemicals is part of making pharmaceuticals. The Goose Creek plant was designed and built in the late 1980s in large part to accommodate wastewater - "effluent," in sewer lexicon - discharged from the Wyeth plant that was located on the corner of South Bolmar and East Nields Streets in West Chester.

But in 2004, Wyeth decided to close the plant and by 2006 had demolished the buildings. Though it no longer sent wastewater into the sewers, it kept making payments.

Companies often bear responsibility for agreements made by companies acquired in a takeover, but Pfizer notified the borough in 2011 that it objected to making further payments, arguing that its obligations under the Wyeth-West Chester agreement ended because there was no plant producing wastewater. Negotiations ended when Wyeth/Pfizer sued in 2012.

"We disagree with Wyeth's contention that these actions with respect to the facilities on its property caused the agreement to terminate," Shenkin wrote in a decision he signed Sunday and filed Monday after a weeklong nonjury trial.

"We are disappointed with the court's decision and are considering all of our legal options," Pfizer spokeswoman Joan Campion said by e-mail.


dsell@phillynews.com

215-854-4506

@phillypharma

www.inquirer.com/phillypharma

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