Embattled Valeant CEO to step down

Canadian drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals announced Monday its chief executive will step down and acknowledged "improper conduct" by several former officials.

CEO Michael Pearson, whose company was once considered a model for growth on Wall Street, has been at the center of a political firestorm over the company’s drug pricing practices.

Pearson, who took over in 2008, will remain as CEO until the company finds a replacement. Valeant will immediately bring on self-proclaimed activist investor Bill Ackman to serve on its board. 

In the last six months, Valeant has been accused of price gouging by Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonComey: Trump's 'Spygate' claims are made up Clapper: Trump distorting my comments is Orwellian Mueller probing Roger Stone's finances: report MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersTrump: ‘Clapper has now admitted there was spying on my campaign’ Overnight Defense: Trump decision on Korea summit coming 'next week' | China disinvited from major naval exercise | Senate sends VA reform bill to Trump Senate sends major VA reform bill to Trump's desk MORE (I-Vt.) and probed by top congressional panels including the House Oversight Committee.

Over the last several weeks, the company also exposed major accounting problems. Valeant’s shares were in freefall last week after the company delayed its fourth-quarter earnings release, cancelled its 2016 disclosure, and disclosed that it had overestimated its earnings target by $600 million.

Valeant also acknowledged for the first time last week that it is the subject of a new investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company's shares were valued at $27 on Friday, down from $53 at the start of last week.

In its release on Monday, Valeant blamed at least some of its financial troubles on former chief financial officer Howard Schiller, who had ignored the company's requests to resign. 

“The company has determined that the tone at the top of the organization and the performance-based environment at the company, where challenging targets were set and achieving those targets was a key performance expectation, may have been contributing factors resulting in the company’s improper revenue recognition,” Valeant said in a news release Monday.

Pearson had announced last October — after becoming the target of a congressional probe — that the company would focus "more on research and development and less on acquisitions of smaller drug makers." He also promised "minimal price increases on its products" this year.

Pearson returned from a two-month medical leave just this month.