The chief executive officer of Nephron Pharmaceuticals – one of the most notorious crony capitalist companies in all of South Carolina – didn’t seem to be in a big hurry to have her custom Land Rover brought around. The night air outside Terra – her dining establishment of choice in West Columbia, S.C. – registered a crisp forty degrees on the evening of November 18, 2022 as she paced State Street waiting for her car.
Lou Kennedy – one of the Palmetto State’s celebrated titans of corporate welfare – fidgeted in her cool kids’ sneakers as she adjusted her Harry Caray-framed glasses and scrolled through her phone. The minutes dragged on, but Kennedy never seemed to grow restless – a curious and unexpected display of patience from a woman who has been known to fly to work in the morning in a helicopter.
Maybe Kennedy wanted – or needed – to tune out for a few minutes? Maybe that respite was a momentary reprieve …
After all, on the evening in question, Kennedy was in the midst of what was clearly a major escalation of an ongoing investigation of her company by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
As I reported on November 3, Nephron received a stinging rebuke from the FDA – a well-documented warning letter which accused the company of “serious deficiencies in (its) practices for producing drug products.”
“There is a lack of assurance that your firm can aseptically produce drug products within your facility,” the FDA warning letter asserted.
Since then, the situation has grown direr for the company. As I reported on November 8, 2022, eight FDA inspectors arrived at Nephron’s headquarters that week for the purpose of conducting ongoing monitoring of the results-challenged facility.
A week later – on November 15, 2022 – FDA investigators were still on-site. Not only that, they actually expanded their inspections to include an “off-site storage site” located in Calhoun County, S.C.
Numerous visits have taken place since then – at multiple locations. In fact, FDA agents have been on-site at Nephron’s West Columbia headquarters for most of the last month – visiting on November 8-11, November 15, December 7-9 and again beginning this Monday (December 12) and continuing through to the time this article was published.
According to my sources, employees are notified anytime FDA investigators arrive on campus via a priority, system-wide email.
Take a look …
(Click to view)
Nothing suspicious about that, huh?
In addition to its visits to West Columbia and Calhoun County, federal agents and investigators have also paid multiple visits to a Nephron-owned facility in Murray, Kentucky in connection with their inquiries.
What are they looking for? It is not immediately clear … but sources familiar with the status of the inquiry say investigators have raised “serious concerns” with Nephron’s leadership about its handling of the investigation.
Investigators have also reportedly seized multiple files and electronic devices – including at least one company laptop – in search of deleted files.
“It’s always the cover-up that gets you,” one company insider cryptically told me.
Another Nephron insider hinted the repetitive FDA visits were due to the discovery of additional problems at its various facilities.
“They keep finding stuff,” the source said, declining to elaborate on the specifics of any potential forthcoming violations.
As I have previously noted, Nephron has benefited richly from taxpayer-funded incentives provided at the behest of former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and other “Republican” politicians – even though the company failed to meet its promised job creation numbers.
Lou Kennedy is a longtime political ally of Haley – and she and her husband are major donors to her political campaigns. In addition to the tens of millions of dollars worth of taxpayer-funded handouts Nephron has received over the years, the company and its executives are leaders of the crony capitalist cabal presiding over “economic development” in South Carolina. Kennedy is a former president and board member of the über-liberal S.C. Chamber of Commerce – the Palmetto State’s staunchest defender of market-distorting taxpayer-funded subsidies. Nephron’s senior vice-president Rob Godfrey – a former Haley advisor – also serves on the chamber board.
On December 7 of this year – as the FDA was digging deeper into Nephron’s operations – current Palmetto State governor Henry McMaster, lieutenant governor Pamela Evette and commerce secretary Harry Lightsey attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at Nephron for its new line of medical gloves.
You would have never known a major federal investigation was taking place in the background …
How will that investigation end? Stay tuned …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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