British Biotech whistleblower faces ruin from court action

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THE whistleblower sacked by British Biotech, Dr Andrew Millar, is threatened with bankruptcy and the loss of his home following a decision by the troubled drugs company to sue him for damages.

British Biotech's lawyers, Slaughter & May, issued Dr Millar with a writ over the weekend claiming he had broken an employment contract which contained a confidentiality clause.

The company claims he is liable for undisclosed damages and costs because he broke the duty of confidentiality when he voiced concerns over the progress of drugs trials at the company.

But Dr Millar yesterday said the company's attempt to "shut him up" would backfire and rebound on the company because the details of his allegations would once again be brought out in public.

"I have just started trying to get on with my life and walk away. Now they are coming after me for my house," he said. "The intention is to shut me up but by taking this action it just ensures that we have to rake over very single detail all over again. It clearly will prolong the whole thing and turn it into a media circus."

Dr Millar said his legal costs were becoming "horrendous" at a time when he was prevented by the storm of media interest from finding another job. He is claiming pounds 180,000 in compensation for a 6-month notice period which was dropped when Biotech sacked him in April, plus "stigma damages" because he cannot find work.

"At the moment it is very difficult indeed for someone to employ me and I am told that at the moment I am too hot to handle."

In the four weeks after his allegations became public, both Dr Millar and his wife lost their appetites and lost 5kg in weight because of the strain. "It has tested the family's resolve and our personal courage very severely. Now we are confronted with an even bigger challenge."

He said Biotech had "no case," pointing out he had kept his peace over concerns about Biotech's drugs until he was invited by Perpetual, a 9 per cent shareholder in Biotech, to discuss the issues.

"I could have gone along with this extraordinary charade that everything was hunky-dory. I had 750,000 share options, which were then worth a couple of million pounds, which would have to have been held until 1999. But that would have been dishonest, self-destructive lunacy."

Dr Millar called on shareholders and non-executive directors to question the decision to sue, which he said was not in the best interests of the company.