Suspended Astra chief is sacked

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The Independent Online
Astra, the Swedish drugs company, has fired its already suspended US chief executive, Lars Bildman, following an internal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and financial improprieties.

Astra USA, a unit of Swedish pharmaceutical giant Astra AB, said yesterday that Mr Bildman had engaged in "inappropriate behaviour" and used approximately $2m (pounds 1.3m) of the company's funds for his personal use.

The company has also fired George Roadman, vice-president of marketing and sales for the hospital division. Edward Aarons, director of institutional business, and Anders Loner, head of Swedish marketing operations, are also to resign. Astra said it would give them no monetary compensation.

Messrs Bildman, Roadman and Aarons were suspended earlier this year after allegations of widespread sexual harassment had surfaced, and received widespread press coverage in the US.

A spokesman for Astra said: "There is evidence that Bildman used company funds for personal expenses, including the renovations to his houses and vacations.

"Approximately $2m was involved. We understand that state and federal authorities have opened their own investigations into these matters and we are co-operating," he added.

The US Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue have all made inquiries to Astra about the alleged misuse of funds, Francis Carling, an attorney for Astra, said. Mr Bildman has previously denied any wrongdoing.

In Stockholm, Astra's lawyer, Thomas Clauss, said that if damages had to be paid to people who allege they have been sexually harassed, the sums would not be great. "If there is the question of damages, it will not be of a significant size."