“Tzedek, tzedek tirdof.”
“Justice, justice thou shalt pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). As the son of a rabbi, Adam Yoffie has let this passage guide his career, first as a federal criminal healthcare prosecutor with the Department of Justice and now as senior counsel for litigation and government investigations at Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS).
Yoffie first developed an interest in the intersection of healthcare and social justice when he interned for an HIV/AIDS organization in Atlanta. He spearheaded testing and counseling efforts and performed community outreach in an impoverished population that had long been underserved by the medical community. His passion for fighting healthcare inequality then led him to Cape Town, South Africa, and later to Israel, where he spent a year working for a professor at the Hebrew University Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and partnered with the Jerusalem Open House on health education events for the LGBT community.
When he returned to the United States, Yoffie spent a year working in the US Senate. Watching lawyers tackle a mix of challenging legal and policy issues reinforced his desire to go to law school.
After graduating from Yale Law School and clerking for two federal judges, Yoffie joined a Washington, DC, law firm where he worked on internal investigations, government enforcement actions, and civil litigation matters in the pharmaceutical industry.
Continuing his healthcare industry investigations and enforcement work, Yoffie next served as a trial attorney in the US Department of Justice’s criminal division, where, as part of the Miami and Philadelphia Medicare Fraud Strike Forces, he prosecuted healthcare professionals, durable medical equipment company owners, money launderers, and other individuals taking advantage of vulnerable patients. As part of a multiagency team, he partnered with federal agents from the FBI, HHS-OIG, and DEA.
Although Yoffie was thriving in his career and loving his work, in March 2020, a personal tragedy set him on a new path: after an intense yearlong battle, his mother lost her life to gall bladder cancer, her third cancer diagnosis. Her experience sparked an interest in oncology, and Yoffie joined BMS. A leading biopharmaceutical company, BMS works to discover, develop, and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases, including cancer.
In this role, Yoffie investigates allegations of employee misconduct and/or of company impropriety and responds to domestic and international government inquiries. “We always seek to do what’s right in order to ensure we can get to the heart of the matter,” he says.
Although no two investigations are the same, he works with a team of lawyers and investigators to identify potential witnesses within and outside of BMS, conduct interviews, review documents, and consult with internal subject matter experts. “There may be a perfectly rational explanation for what transpired, but we won’t know unless we familiarize ourselves with the facts,” Yoffie says.
The COVID pandemic has allowed for virtual interviewing, which has enabled Yoffie to work simultaneously on investigations on multiple continents. He may start early in the morning with a meeting in Europe, move to Latin America in the afternoon, and then conclude at night in Asia where it is already the next morning.
Yoffie explains that when conducting investigations outside of the United States, it is crucial to be aware of local laws that dictate what steps the investigation team can take. There may be nuances to attorney-client privilege, as well as limitations on cross-border data transfers and the use of personally identifiable information. “We work very closely with BMS legal and compliance personnel in the local markets to ensure we not only understand our legal obligations but also respect relevant cultural practices,” Yoffie says.
According to Yoffie, investigations and post-investigation remediation efforts are most successful when the team collaborates with a broad cross-section of the company—from scientists to sales personnel—to gain insights into the inner workings of local markets and identify any root causes that may have led to a concern in the first place.
When responding to external inquiries from the government, Yoffie relies on his experience at the DOJ to communicate effectively with government officials at the local, state, and federal levels. Yoffie explains that it is vital to identify potential civil and/or criminal legal liability for the company, be mindful of external deadlines, keep an open line of communication with the government, and be prepared to explain complicated concepts in a concise and coherent fashion to government enforcement authorities.
“Adam’s experiences in private practice and as a former DOJ healthcare prosecutor provide him with great insight in managing investigations and responding to government inquiries,” says Karl H. Buch, partner and cohead of global investigations for DLA Piper. “He is smart, insightful, and a pleasure to partner with.”
His role at BMS enables Yoffie to play a part in contributing to the company’s mission of developing life-changing medicines. The key to conducting internal investigations, according to Yoffie, is to hold people accountable while treating everyone he encounters with dignity. “We’re investigating individuals who may or may not have done something wrong,” he says, “and we must be fair, just, and respectful in our communications with them.”
Outside of his day-to-day responsibilities, Yoffie is a member of the law department’s pro bono committee. On BMS’ day of service, he recently worked with colleagues to conduct anti-human trafficking research. Yoffie also cochairs the Philadelphia Bar Association’s healthcare committee, which recently hosted events about immigration challenges in the healthcare system and clinical trials in a post-COVID world.
As the federal government and state attorneys general devote additional resources to investigating pharmaceutical companies, Yoffie’s work becomes ever more critical to upholding BMS’s commitment to honesty, integrity, ethics, and compliance.