Head of Operation Warp Speed won't be forced to disclose investments in pharma companies

The "government contractor" designation for Moncef Slaoui, MD, who serves as the head of Operation Warp Speed, is drawing criticism from watchdog groups and some congressional Democrats, according to The New York Times.

Dr. Slaoui joined Operation Warp Speed, the White House's task force to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, under a $1 contract rather than as a federal employee. This means he is exempt from ethics disclosures to which federal employees are subjected and can maintain his pharma company investments.

The contract has alarmed watchdog groups, as Dr. Slaoui is a venture capitalist and previously held an executive role at pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline.

Two government watchdog groups, Public Citizen and Lower Drug Prices Now, wrote a May 28 complaint that argues the contract "appears unwarranted and designed primarily to allow Slaoui to maintain an extensive web of conflicting financial interests without the need to divest of, recuse from or disclose those conflicting interests."

Three congressional Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., also wrote a letter June 15 expressing concerns about Dr. Slaoui's contract and his financial conflicts of interest in the pharma industry.

An HHS spokesperson defended the contract, telling the Times Dr. Slaoui had left several company advisory boards and divested his equity in Moderna. 

"HHS ethics officers have determined Dr. Slaoui's contractor status, divestiture and board resignations put him in compliance with our robust department ethical standards," the spokesperson said.


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