Politics

White House coronavirus vaccine advisor Moncef Slaoui to divest $12.4 million of Moderna holdings

Key Points
  • Former Moderna executive Moncef Slaoui, tapped to lead the White House coronavirus vaccine project, will divest himself of approximately $12.4 million worth of stock options he has in the company.
  • Slaoui "directed the divestiture of his equity holdings in Moderna and that sale should be effective tomorrow morning," an HHS spokeswoman said Monday.
  • Moderna's stock soared Monday on news of a promising coronavirus vaccine candidate, jumping from a Friday close of $66.69 a share to $80 at the conclusion of Monday's trading. 
Former GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical executive Moncef Slaoui, who will serve as chief adviser on the effort to find a vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, speaks as President Donald Trump listens during a coronavirus disease response event in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, May 15, 2020.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

WASHINGTON — Moncef Slaoui, a former Moderna executive who was recently appointed to co-chair the White House coronavirus vaccine project, will divest approximately $12.4 million worth of stock options he has in the pharmaceutical manufacturer, according to representatives from the company and the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Slaoui resigned from the board of Moderna last week, when President Donald Trump appointed him to lead Operation Warp Speed, a massive public-private effort often likened to the Manhattan Project, to develop a vaccine for the deadly coronavirus as soon as possible. Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed that as of Monday morning Slaoui still had 155,438 options in Moderna. 

"Dr. Slaoui has resigned from his position as an independent member of the Board of Directors for Moderna. Further, he has directed the divestiture of his equity holdings in Moderna and that sale should be effective tomorrow morning," Caitlin Oakley, an HHS spokeswoman told CNBC on Monday. 

"Furthermore, Dr. Slaoui has committed to donate to cancer research all incremental value accrued from his Moderna shares between the evening of Thursday, May 14, prior to the announcement of his position on Operation Warp Speed and the time of sale, scheduled for tomorrow morning," Oakley said. It was previously reported that Slaoui will volunteer his time, and will not be paid by the government.

Moderna representatives confirmed Slaoui's plans, telling CNBC: "Dr. Slaoui is divesting all of his equity interest in Moderna so that there is no conflict of interest with Dr. Slaoui in his new role. We wish Dr. Slaoui well in this new role, and we know he has a lot to contribute as our nation - and the world - address the COVID-19 pandemic."

The divestiture may be the result, at least in part, of public pressure on Slaoui since reports first surfaced last week that he still owned more than 150,000 shares of Moderna, one of the companies receiving federal funds to help develop a vaccine. 

In April, Moderna stock jumped after CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC the company had received as much as $483 million in taxpayer funds to accelerate development of a coronavirus vaccine. 

Slaoui name-checked Moderna's vaccine development last week at a White House event to announce his appointment to co-chair Operation Warp Speed. The vaccine project's other chair is Gustave Perna, a four-star U.S. Army General. 

"Mr. President, I have very recently seen early data from a clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine," Slaoui said at the Rose Garden event. "And this data made me feel even more confident that we will be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020."

Slaoui did not provide a specific source of the data, but three days later, on Monday, Moderna announced promising early results of human trials for a coronavirus vaccine candidate. 

At least one prominent lawmaker, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., decried Slaoui's continued holdings in Moderna, calling it a "huge conflict of interest."

Moderna's stock soared Monday on news of a promising coronavirus vaccine candidate, jumping from a Friday close of $66.69 a share to $80 at the conclusion of Monday's trading.

Based on a rough comparison of the stock's value the day before Slaoui's appointment was announced when it was $65 a share, and the value on Monday evening of $80 a share, it appears, based on the statement from HHS, that Slaoui would be donating roughly $2.4 million to charity. 

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