Org Prep Daily

August 26, 2017

Breaking Bad in South Florida (6)

Filed under: Uncategorized — milkshake @ 2:24 am

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. If you find any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, deadly or lively, or actual molecules, carbons or heteroatoms, it is purely coincidental.

Part 6

(here is Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 7)

I learned that the biologist was fired the day after it happened – it was done so quietly. The research director came to talk to me, he knew that we were friends. He gave a long explanation: stubborn, not a team-player, already slated for downsizing but they had to speed it up when he tried to sabotage our clinical candidate by unauthorized animal experiments reportable to the FDA…

I went to see the biologist friend after the work. He was coping well, a little excited and angry, and on his first day of unemployment he already got a lawyer. We drank beer and cursed the management. My friend was afraid to use the CEO illicit drug-manufacturing angle: After all, it wasn’t the reason why they fired him. We heard some rumors about our CEO having sketchy friends – we did not know why he was making Ecstasy or if there was any connection to the organized crime so maybe it shouldn’t be used in the lawsuit. But when I spoke with the biologist two days later again, he warmed to the idea and he asked me to take pictures of the bottles of precursors left in the satellite lab that our CEO used for making drugs.

I went back to the company that night with a camera and started snapping the pictures of precursors. The camera autofocus was crappy and it was quite hard to make out the little print on bottle labels in the resulting photos. Also, I couldn’t find some of the more incriminating precursors like methylenedioxy benzene (though I did find few bottles of the other stuff) and I begun to change my mind about providing evidence for a lawsuit against my employers even though I volunteered to do it. It was clear to me that pictures of few precursor bottles won’t make a convincing case about the illicit drug manufacture, there would also have to be a detailed chemistry explanation and a witness deposition about the misuse of these materials as drug precursors. I would have no control over these photos, how they were going to be used during the lawsuit or the settlement negotiations – the photos would show the management that my friend is getting some help from among the chemists. I was already under the suspicion of our research director. I realized that to keep my job I needed to betray my friend, and do it soon.

So I sent a brief e-mail message to the CEO on Friday in the early morning hours, asking him for an urgent meeting and when he arrived I breathlessly reported that my biologist friend was going to sue the company for wrongful dismissal and he is also gathering evidence about the illicit drug manufacture. I enjoyed pointing out to him how badly he compromised himself and I urged him to settle the case. The CEO was visibly shaken and said that he could probably write a check under the table, for tens of thousands – but not for hundreds of thousands – from his own fortune. Then he shook my hand, hugged me and said he would remain forever grateful.

I could rationalize this now and try to make myself look better but I did it for selfish reasons: I thought I could keep my job. I did not want my friend to use the drug manufacturing scandal to destroy the company if things got out of hand. I figured his legal action (whistleblower retaliation / wrongful termination) wouldn’t be hampered if the management learned about it couple days in advance: they already made the mistake of firing him right after his research presentation – not much that they can do about it now… I also stopped by to see my friend, to tell him that I already ratted him out to the management and that the CEO was willing to pay him off. (The reaction wasn’t good. His wife asked me to never come back).

The research director took me aside when he returned next Tuesday, he grilled me about every detail I could remember about the incoming legal action but I did not know much to tell him. He looked very concerned while I tried to impress him how badly they needed to settle. The next day the chief business officer (who was based in a different city and visited the company infrequently) also chatted me up and gently probed me about my job satisfaction and my friendship with the biologist.

For a while I thought they bought it. The CEO looked happy and relieved and was now very friendly. Then he suddenly stopped showing up at the company. The research director looked stressed and very busy though I had one lunch conversation with him during this time – he mentioned that our CEO was unable to bring in more money for the company from his family fortune. He was also telling me about the university police investigation and the near bust of the student-technician buying the precursor in February 2014. When I pointed out that the technician actually worked for our CEO and the private drug manufacture project started more than a year before that – as he should well know because he set up the lab for it – the research director did not even pause and conceded it was his personal failure that he refused to believe the rumors about our CEO; it sounded quick and practiced.

Two weeks later, the research director called a meeting and announced that the CEO was taking a personal leave and won’t be coming back. He made it sound all rather mysterious, along the lines of a serious illness and family matter. Later we found out that our CEO checked himself into a rehab upon recommendation of his lawyer and he was ordered in no uncertain terms to stay out of town. Our research director became the new CEO.

I think our research director had the CEO ouster prepared for a long time already and the threat of the lawsuit just prompted him to act – to immunize himself should the drug making scandal become public. He did it, most likely, by outing the CEO to the university where we were renting the lab space (and where his wife was a vice-president for research integrity, a high-ranking official in the presidents’ office hierarchy). I think the university leadership in turn made absolutely sure to keep the reopened investigation under wraps by using their political clout. These are only my speculations – it was done in a hushed way and we didn’t learn any details.

Our CEO stepped down and disappeared into a rehab, the Board of directors was told a very sanitized version of the story and all was good again: No public investigation, no indictments, no fuss. We were back in business under the quietly effective management of our research director.

Sliva1 Credit: Jiri Sliva

6 Comments »

  1. Is this the last part or will there be more?

    Comment by peptoidchemist — August 26, 2017 @ 12:29 pm

  2. Having spent several months aware of drug manufacture and allowing it to continue, a belated and retaliatory police report could have backfired on yourself and your friend somewhat.

    Comment by CRISPR — August 26, 2017 @ 2:02 pm

    • As you know, this is a fictional story (though I tried to make the plot and the bumbling actions of the characters more plausibe than what you would see in the original Breaking Bad TV series).

      There will be enough on the subject of retaliation and law enforcement investigation in the future installments of the story. Please keep reading.

      Comment by milkshake — August 26, 2017 @ 3:38 pm

  3. Found out about this blog recently. Everything – the stories, the advice, the synthetic procedures – is fantastic. I’m an undergraduate without a ton of lab experience (<300 reactions) so I've been reading all your write-ups and trying to imagine/remember as much as I can.

    Thanks for writing all this.

    Comment by cwagen — August 29, 2017 @ 12:04 am

  4. This isn’t the end of the series, is it? You can’t leave the story on a cliffhanger like that!

    Comment by Bender — August 30, 2017 @ 9:36 am

    • Of course it isn’t. I was busy writing some other stuff that was higher priority.

      Comment by milkshake — August 30, 2017 @ 1:12 pm


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