On Harassment At Astra
Thank you very much for your expose "Abuse of power" (Cover Story, May 13). Now, the rest of the world knows what each Astra USA employee knows: CEO Lars Bildman belongs in the Dark Ages, when men clubbed women and dragged them back to the cave, not running a multimillion-dollar company in the '90s! [Bildman was suspended on Apr. 28.] My experience at Astra so soured my view of the pharmaceutical industry that I have left the field altogether, after trying hard to get a highly sought-after position for years. Shame on [parent company] Astra AB for turning a blind eye to Lars's behavior for the past 15 years! Weren't the complaints, threatened legal action, settlements, and actual lawsuits from so many female employees enough? It's sad that it had to take a national media campaign to get Bildman removed!
I agree with everything in this article. I started at Astra in 1990 and left in June, 1995, on good terms. I experienced many abuses of power. I was at the meeting with Maura Lynch when we discussed organizing a support group to help women who felt abused and unempowered. The women's group wanted me to represent them, and I chose not to for fear of being fired. I am happy that this scandal has now made the press. No one would believe me when I told them the type of stress I endured. [A friend of mine and I] were the only African Americans in the sales force, and we experienced many sales reps coming into our room crying about the sexual-harassment experiences as well as the stress put upon them by Astra. Congratulations for exposing Astra.
Such thorough investigative journalism would be appreciated at any time, but coming on the heels of last week's snide Forbes cover story deprecating the topic of sexual harassment, your thoughtful exposition of the profound harm to victims at Astra was especially welcome.
Lynn Hecht Schafran
National Judicial Education Program
NOW Legal Defense & Education Fund
As a former sales representative for Astra USA, I would like to thank you for outlining the horrific culture that is Astra. In their heart of hearts, all current and previous Astra employees know that you have barely scratched the surface of the behavior that exists in the company. Let me point out that I am not a disgruntled former Astra employee. But I am very thankful for the day this nightmare ended for me. I have moved on to a very successful, rewarding career.
Eden Prairie, Minn.
Readers of your gripping Cover Story on rampant sexual abuse at Astra are entitled to ask: "Where were the independent directors?" Time after time, companies in obvious trouble of one kind or another--such as Morrison Knudsen, IBM, Westinghouse Electric, General Motors, etc.--are pressured by their banks, their credit agencies, their shareholders, or their employees. But not their directors. This sort of thing should be a national scandal. Directors are paid to detect and correct problems, but either their financial or other conflicts or their immersion in the corporate mind-set seem to prevent it.
Sarah A.B. Teslik
Council of Institutional Investors
Your attempted hatchet job on Astra USA read like one of Cosmo's trash novels, especially the way executives were described as suddenly appearing in robes while the supposedly innocent women wrestled with thoughts of how they might escape from the clutches of the evil brand manager. Lars Bildman deserves only gratitude from employees. He has continued to grow his company and increase jobs for Americans, even in what has become a fiercely litigious U.S. culture.
The underlying message from your article is clear: American women will turn against a company without warning. They have no sense of loyalty and will quickly bray "harassment" if they perceive a competitor may have out- maneuvered them. U.S. companies should avoid hiring American women, and Lars Bildman should have brought the Swedish bikini team on board to peddle his drugs.
J. Tyler Ballance
I am sick and tired of reading another biased corporate harassment story. Your account of the alleged sexual tales of woe seems to be mostly based on hearsay from Astra's disgruntled employees. The article stunk of someone who was eager to do an investigative report and slanted every comment to his liking. I do not know anything about Astra USA, but I can spot a terrible journalist. I doubt that BUSINESS WEEK could hold up to the same type of bias investigation as was reported against Astra.
Blue Bell, Penn.