COVID vaccine honchos sold $496M in stocks last year: report

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Pharma honchos cashed out nearly half a billion dollars in stock as their companies raced to develop life-saving coronavirus vaccines, a new report says.

Executives and directors at 13 firms working on vaccines — including Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax — collectively sold more than 8.5 million shares worth about $496 million last year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The pace of those sales nearly doubled from 2019, when insiders at the same companies dumped 4.7 million shares worth roughly $132 million, the paper reported Wednesday, citing data from Kaleidoscope, a financial research firm.

The bulk of last year’s sales were reportedly made by bosses of Moderna, the upstart Massachusetts-based biotech firm behind one of two COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized in the US.

Moderna COVID vaccine
Boxes containing vials of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine.
AFP via Getty Images

Moderna executives and a director sold more than $321 million worth of the company’s shares — $98 million of which was cashed out by CEO Stéphane Bancel, according to the Journal.

Most of the sales were reportedly made under preset trading plans that allow corporate insiders to sell stock without violating insider trading laws. The plans can set thresholds for triggering automatic sales, such as the stock hitting a certain price, the Journal says.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla raised eyebrows in November by selling more than $5.5 million in stock through a trading plan on the same day the drugmaker said its COVID-19 shot was more than 90 percent effective.

Medical researcher
A medical researcher tests serology samples from the Novavax phase 3 Covid-19 clinical vaccine trial.
Getty Images

Moderna told the Journal that all of its executives’ stock sales were likewise made under so-called 10b5-1 trading plans. Company honchos agreed in August not to enter any new plans, pile shares onto existing plans or make other unscheduled sales, according to the paper. Moderna reportedly allowed bosses to sell through trading plans again after the firm released efficacy data for its COVID shot in December.

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