President Donald Trump's newly appointed coronavirus czar Moncef Slaoui announced Monday he would be divesting himself of $10 million in stock options in the pharmaceutical company where he recently served as a board member, Business Insider reports.
Slaoui resigned from the board of Moderna when he was named to head up the president's Operation Warp Speed initiative last week. But he kept the stock options, maintaining that there was no conflict of interest in doing so.
"Dr. Slaoui resigned his Board position last week upon the appointment of his new role to oversee the White House's Operation Warp Speed initiative," Moderna told Business Insider. "Consistent with this appointment, we can also confirm that 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."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told the website that Slaoui's divestment would be effective Tuesday morning.
"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," a representative for HHS added.
Slaoui on Monday tweeted in response to criticism from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren that there was no conflict of interest in holding the shares. He later deleted the tweet.
Warren maintained in a tweet, "It is a huge conflict of interest for the White House's new vaccine czar to own $10 million of stock in a company receiving government funding to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Slaoui should divest immediately."
Columbia Law School professor John Coffee told Business Insider that Slaoui could have faced conflicts had he not divested.
"If he is going to have any say as to which vaccine is funded, he is hopelessly convicted," Coffee said, explaining that Slaoui "has a major conflict of interest, as he is incentivized to favor Moderna."
Slaoui's actions would not, however, be considered insider tradiing, he said, "unless he were in the future to buy or sell Moderna (or other affected stock) based on material nonpublic information."
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