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Optimer fires Michael Chang as chair

Chief financial officer John Prunty and executive Youe-Kong Shue also lose roles over issues related to grant of 1.5bn shares of Optimer Biotechnology to Chang

Optimer Pharmaceuticals has said it has removed Michael Chang from his position as chair of the company over compliance issues related to his role as member of Optimer's Taiwan-based affiliate, Optimer Biotechnology (OBI).

John Prunty, who served as the company's chief financial officer, and Youe-Kong Shue, another executive, were also fired.

Optimer claims that Chang failed to 'identify and effectively manage compliance, record keeping and conflict of interest issues' in connection with a grant of 1.5bn OBI shares the affiliate had granted to Chang, which were potentially for the benefit of an unnamed third party.

Prunty and Shue were fired for a failure to follow proper procedures when they became aware of the issues related to Chang.

Hank McKinnell, formerly lead independent director at Optimer, has been appointed as Chang's replacement to chair the company.

He said: "Clearly, we are disappointed that we had to take these actions.  However, the board believes they reflect the importance to the company of good corporate governance practices and that they are in the best interests of the company and its stakeholders.

“Importantly, the issues surrounding the board's decision relate solely to the company's relationship with OBI."

It is unclear whether Chang, Prunty and Shue will face legal action for their actions, although Optimer said it had disclosed the matter to relevant US authorities.

Chang remains a director of Optimer, although the board has requested his resignation.

Kurt Hartman, who currently serves as general counsel, chief compliance officer and senior VP, has been appointed acting chief financial officer. A search for a permanent replacement for Prunty is underway.

Optimer also released its financial results for the first quarter for 2012, with gross revenues climbing 36 per cent to $16.45m.

The company has been buoyed by the US launch of diarrhoea drug Dificid, which is sold as Dificlir in Europe, the Middle East and Commonwealth of Independent States by Astellas.

11th April 2012

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