Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

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.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'S.O.S.!": Groups in Red States Nationwide Plead With Democrats to Pass Voting Rights Bill

"We can tell you firsthand that our Republican senators have no interest in joining this effort."

Jake Johnson ·


Revealed: US Public Pension Funds Are 'Quiet Culprits of Climate Chaos'

One activist called divestment "an ethical responsibility" given that "maintaining the status quo of fossil fuel energy production and investments will unquestionably lead to a self-created catastrophe."

Jessica Corbett ·


'It Is Urgent': Progressives Push for Bill to Expand and Improve Social Security

"It's time to cast a vote on behalf of all beneficiaries. Not with cuts, but with improvements to their lives."

Andrea Germanos ·


Top Democrat Says US Tax Havens 'A Stunning Indictment' of Policy Failures

"Do we want America to stand for fairness or to be just another spot for billionaires' buried treasure?" asked Rep. Bill Pascrell.

Kenny Stancil ·


As Putin Asserts Russia's Right to Defend Against NATO, US Urged to Avoid 'New Cold War'

While the Biden administration vows to "stand up for Ukraine," one expert implored U.S. leaders to "recognize our own provocations and aggressions" and to "make an effort to understand Russia."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo