Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Moncef Slaoui, the former head of GlaxoSmithKline vaccines division, listens as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks about coronavirus vaccine development in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 15, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

'This Is My Retirement': Trump's Covid-19 Vaccine Czar Refuses to Sell Stock Holdings of Major Drug Company

"If he retains stock in companies that are investing in the development of a vaccine," said government watchdog CREW, "we can't be confident of the integrity of any process in which he is involved."

Julia Conley

The chief adviser overseeing President Donald Trump's task force charged with spearheading the U.S. government's Covid-19 vaccine and treatment effort has refused to divest his shares in pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, where he previously worked.

As the New York Times reported Wednesday, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who was appointed to lead Operation Warp Speed last week, holds nearly $10 million in stock at the company where he led the vaccine division until his retirement in 2017. Slaoui still owns an unknown number of shares at GSK, where he held about 240,000 shares and share equivalents when he left the company.

GSK is one of several pharmaceutical companies researching potential vaccines for the coronavirus.

Slaoui reportedly told the Trump administration that he would not sell his GSK shares.

"I have worked for 29 years for GSK," Slaoui told the Times. "I have never sold a single share of any company in my life. This is my retirement. What I said regarding the GSK shares, I said I cannot take the job if I have to sell them."

Critics charge Slaoui's interest in GSK represents just one of his conflicts as he leads a task force which will decide which vaccine candidates should receive financial backing. 

The doctor has retained his partnership in the venture capital firm Medicxi, which has investments in a number of companies researching vaccines and treatments. 

Under Slaoui's arrangement with the Trump administration, he is working on Operation Warp Speed as a contractor rather than a federal employee, shielding him from conflict of interest laws and financial disclosure rules—a deal the government watchdog Citizens of Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called "absurd."

"It allows for no public scrutiny of his conflicts of interest," chief ethics counsel Virginia Canter told the Times. "If he retains stock in companies that are investing in the development of a vaccine, and he's involved in overseeing this process to select the safest vaccine to combat Covid-19, regardless of how wonderful a person he is, we can't be confident of the integrity of any process in which he is involved."

Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on Slaoui to "immediately divest" his financial interests in Moderna, another pharmaceutical company researching a vaccine. When Slaoui accepted his new position, he still held stock options in the company, amounting to what Warren called "a huge conflict of interest."

Slaoui did not sell those shares until this Tuesday, a day after Moderna's stock skyrocketed when the company released partial data from an early vaccine trial, which showed eight out of 45 test subjects had developed Covid-19 immunity.

Slaoui's stock options increased by more than $2 million after the announcement; the Trump administration said he was planning to donate the increased value to cancer research. 

Despite Moderna's rising stock during its vaccine trial demonstrating how Slaoui's involvement in the task force creates conflicts for the doctor, the White House told the Times it had "reviewed Dr. Slaoui's affiliations with several companies and concluded in several instances that there were no conflicts because his advisory roles were unrelated to coronavirus research or treatments."

On Thursday, former Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub tweeted that the arrangement allowing Slaoui to work as a contractor while overseeing government employees working on Operation Warp Speed is a "sham."

Slaoui's position on the task force "would make him a special government employee subject to the criminal conflict of interest law," wrote Shaub. "Congress needs to investigate!" 


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Abortion Rights Groups Sue to Block Post-Roe Trigger Laws in Louisiana

"We will be fighting to restore access in Louisiana and other states for as long as we can," said one reproductive rights campaigner.

Jake Johnson ·


Poll Shows Majority Oppose Supreme Court's Attack on Fundamental Rights

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they're now concerned the court will attack marriage equality and the right to obtain contraception.

Julia Conley ·


Global Windfall Profit Tax of 90% Needed to Address 'Catastrophic' Food, Climate Crises: Oxfam

Taxing the excess profits of large corporations within the G7 alone could raise an estimated $430 billion to fight world hunger, deliver vaccines to the entire world, and make a giant dent in the fight to drive down fossil fuel pollution and jumpstart the necessary renewable energy transition.

Jon Queally ·


NATO to Boost Ranks of High-Readiness Forces by 650% to Over 300,000

Anti-war campaigners responded that "this is not the path to peace and will not make the world safer."

Jake Johnson ·


Ilhan Omar Says Plan to Fix Supreme Court Must Include Impeachment Probes

"We need an impeachment investigation into Clarence Thomas' role in the January 6th coup, as well as into Gorsuch, Alito, Barrett, and Kavanaugh's testimony on Roe during their confirmation hearings," said the Minnesota Democrat.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo