A divorce case was all that passed for excitement at Richard P Altschuler’s “kinda small” lawyer’s office in West Haven, Connecticut, when the phone rang nine years ago. On the other end of the line, a world away in the heat of Nigeria, was Etigwe Uwo, a young lawyer with “an incredible story about Pfizer”. The Lagos attorney was going to take on the largest pharmaceutical company in the world in an unprecedented class action pitting African parents against an American corporate giant. And he needed help.
Mr Etigwe had chosen Mr Altschuler because, back in 1979, the Connecticut lawyer had successfully defended a friend of the Nigerian. The unlikely pair were about to embark on a marathon journey into the world of “big pharma”. Nine years on and their efforts have finally been rewarded with a reported $75m (£50m) settlement, the terms of which are likely to be released this week.
If it sounds like the script of a Hollywood blockbuster that’s because it was this story that prompted John Le Carre to write The Constant Gardener, according to Mr Altschuler.