Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

U.S. President Donald Trump listens as Moncef Slaoui, the former head of GlaxoSmithKlines vaccines division, speaks 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)

Defying 'Logic and the Law,' HHS Inspector General Allows Trump's Vaccine Czar to Maintain Big Pharma Investments

"The IG has given a green light for Slaoui to use his public office for self-enrichment, a practice that has become frighteningly common within the Trump administration."

Julia Conley

Ethics watchdogs on Wednesday slammed a ruling by the Health and Human Services Department's inspector general, who decided this week that Moncef Slaoui, a former pharmaceutical executive now heading the Trump administration's coronavirus vaccine task force, does not have to disclose or divest his investments in the industry.

As the co-director of Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership aimed at finding a vaccine for Covid-19 by the end of 2020, Slaoui is in the position to award contracts to pharmaceutical companies researching potential vaccines and treatments. 

As Common Dreams reported in May when Slaoui was appointed and designated a "volunteer contractor" by the Trump administration, the former head of GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) vaccines department continues to hold stock in the company, even as it is collaborating with Sanofi on a potential vaccine.

"We oppose this kind of corruption and blatant conflict of interest," said the healthcare coalition Lower Drug Prices Now in response to the ruling. 

The ruling by the HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) came in response to an ethics complaint filed in May by Public Citizen and Lower Drug Prices Now. According to the Washington Post, the organizations said in their complaint that there is "no basis in law for Slaoui to run Operation Warp Speed without being a full-time government employee" or a "special government employee," two designations that would require him to disclose and divest his financial interests. 

The "special government employee" designation is given to professionals who temporarily join administration projects for a maximum of 130 days. In its response to the complaint, the OIG reportedly focused mainly on the fact that Slaoui will be in his position for longer than 130 days, but did not address the groups' concerns about conflicts of interest. 

Public Citizen expressed dismay that the OIG didn't recognize Slaoui's conflict of interest in its ruling on Monday. 

"What few public records we have show that Slaoui does indeed hold financial interests in some of the vaccine companies being awarded government contracts under Warp Speed," Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, told Common Dreams on Wednesday. "But we do not know how deep these conflicts of interest run because Slaoui is not even required to disclose the extent of his holdings. The IG has given a green light for Slaoui to use his public office for self-enrichment, a practice that has become frighteningly common within the Trump administration."

The OIG is currently headed by Christi Grimm, who drew President Donald Trump's ire after releasing a report detailing shortages of medical supplies to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The rationale for the dismissal is tortured at best and reflects that the 'independent' IG seems to feel intimidated by Trump and has chosen to sidestep a confrontation," Holman said.

In addition to holding $10 million in stock in GSK as of May, Slaoui held an unknown number of shares in the company when he took the Operation Warp Speed position. He told the New York Times at the time that the shares were his "retirement." 

"What I said regarding the GSK shares, I said I cannot take the job if I have to sell them," Slaoui told the Times.

Slaoui is also chairman of the board of research company Vaxcyte. The company has received investment from Medicxi, a venture capital firm from which Slaoui is currently on hiatus as a partner. 

"The IG's decision allows Slaoui to continue working as a private contractor running the nation's largest government program, which defies logic and the law," Holman told Common Dreams. "He is free to hold and acquire financial interests in the same vaccine companies to which he is helping award government contracts. This casts a pall of potential favoritism and self-dealing in every decision Slaoui makes on behalf of Operation Warp Speed."


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

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·


PG&E Charged With 11 Felony Counts—Including Manslaughter—Over 2020 Zogg Fire

"PG&E has a history with a repeated pattern of causing wildfires that is not getting better," said Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett. "It's only getting worse."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Hold My Pearls': Debbie Dingell Lets Marjorie Taylor Green Have It Over Abortion Rights

The Michigan Democrat engaged in a verbal altercation with the far-right Republican lawmaker from Georgia on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Jon Queally ·


Dems Who Opposed Pentagon Cuts Received Nearly 4x More Donations From Weapons Makers

The latest passage of the NDAA "is particularly strong evidence that Pentagon contractors' interests easily take precedence over national security and the public interest for too many members of Congress," said one critic.

Kenny Stancil ·

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