Drug CEO Settles Harassment Suits

Associated Press, October 27, 1998

Source: Jeff Wong, Associated Press Writer

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - Milan Panic, the U.S. business executive who briefly served as the Yugoslav prime minister after the end of the Cold War, settled two lawsuits accusing him of sexually harassing two women at his pharmaceutical company.

That brings to four the number of sexual harassment lawsuits he has settled since 1995.

Milan Panic and ICN Pharmaceuticals (NYSE:ICN-news) settled the cases Tuesday as his trial was about to begin on charges he retaliated against his former human resources director Mary Martinelli for rejecting his advances.

The terms of the settlements were not disclosed, but Ms. Martinelli said the offer was too good to pass up. She added: "I hope this positive outcome encourages other women to stand up to CEOs who harass them."

The 68-year Panic (pronounced PAHN-itch) denied the allegations against him but said: "unfortunately, in today's legal climate, it is sometimes fiscally more responsible to reach a monetary settlement than to accept the risk - even when you have done nothing wrong."

Ms. Martinelli charged that Panic repeatedly propositioned her, fondled her and tried to kiss her during a 1990 business meeting in London. She quit in 1996.

"I think they settled because there was a strong likelihood that this jury would have seen through their defense and found that Panic and the company created intolerable working conditions for my clients," attorney Alan Exelrod said.

In the other lawsuit, public relations assistant Michelle McKenney said Panic told her repeatedly during the company's 1990 holiday party that she was sexy and asked her for sex when she was six months' pregnant. McKenney said she was denied a promotion for refusing him.

The other two lawsuits made similar allegations. And two other women have claimed they were harassed but have not sued.

Panic was born in Belgrade and arrived in America in 1956. Four years later he founded the company that would become ICN.

Today it is a worldwide pharmaceutical business headquartered in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Although a U.S. citizen, Panic returned to Yugoslavia in 1992 to serve as prime minister. He held the post six months before losing a run for presidency in a disputed election won by Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic.