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Blog Post | March 29, 2021

Pharma In The White House: Financial Disclosures Reveal Officials' Stake In Vaccine Manufacturers

Ethics in GovernmentExecutive Branch
Pharma In The White House: Financial Disclosures Reveal Officials' Stake In Vaccine Manufacturers

The Revolving Door Project has begun systematically requesting personal financial disclosures for White House personnel since they were made available in late March. While some disclosures reveal relatively uncontroversial financial holdings, others reveal potential conflicts of interest facing the Biden administration during the height of the publicly-funded vaccine rollout.

With only a small, partial selection of disclosures received, we have already found over a dozen officials in the White House with holdings in controversial pharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturers. These ties are doubly concerning given the White House’s continued choice to protect drugmakers’ profits rather than saving lives around the world by releasing vaccine patents. 

Top Biden officials have personal stakes in vaccine manufacturers including Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson. While they may not all be part of daily Covid-19 crisis management, some, like Jake Sullivan, absolutely are. We do not know if these officials have been required to divest of their holdings given the White House’s decision not to provide “ethics agreements” which spell out how officials will resolve conflicts of interest. However, as long as our ethics laws permits individual stock ownership, such conflicts will inevitably arise, and engender public mistrust as top White House officials potentially enrich themselves on vaccine research, development, and manufacture that the public paid for.

We have compiled two categories of White House officials in alphabetical order who may face major or minor financial conflicts of interest based on the size of their pharmaceutical holdings and career history involved defending the industry:

Significant Pharmaceutical & Health Company Ties:

  • Jonathan Cedarbaum represented the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association and other pharmaceutical/healthcare companies like BTG International, DaVITA, EXACT Sciences Corp, and Karyopharm Therapeutics. 
  • Stuart Delery as a partner at corporate law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher made $3,790,417 representing clients like the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Research Service and Alexion Pharmaceuticals.
  • Daniel Hornung owns $15-$50k in vaccine manufacturers Johnson & Johnson and $1k-$15k in Pfizer and an undisclosed amount of stock in Abbvie, Amgen, and Abbot Laboratories (pharmaceutical and medical device companies).
  • Susan Rice owns $15-$50k in vaccine makers Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Bristol Myers-Squibb 
  • Jennifer Sokoler is a former Big Law alum who worked at the Trump-supporting O’Melveny & Myers law firm where she made at least $411,471 She provided legal services to numerous insurance and health companies like Anthem, Humana, BlueCross BlueShield, America’s Health Insurance Plans, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, and United Health.
  • Jonathan Su was a partner at the BigLaw firm Latham & Watkins, LLP, where he made $3,117,226. The Revolving Door Project has written about Su’s checkered legal history before, including his representing Myllan, a pharmaceutical company responsible for price-gouging EpiPens that later merged with Pfizer.
  • Jake Sullivan was a partner at the shadow corporate lobbying firm and consultancy, Macro Advisory Partners from 2017-2020. His financial disclosures and outside reporting reveal he advised Aviva (an insurance company). He and his spouse own between $15,000 and $50,000 of stock in Merck and $50k-$100k in Abbott Laboratories.

Minor Pharmaceutical & Health Company Ties:

  • Jamie Citron owns between $1-$15k in stocks including vaccine manufacturers Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer, and Amgen.
  • Corina Cortez owns $1k-$15k in Pfizer, Merck, and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
  • Larry Schwartzol owns $1k-$15k of AmerisourceBergen (a drug seller), CVS and Anthem.
  • Justin Vail owns between $1k-$15k in Gilead, Bristol-Myers Squibb and AbbVie (pharmaceutical companies) stocks. 
  • Libby Washburn, based on her filings, owns between $1k-$15k in stock in Health Catalyst and NovoCure. According to her Form 278-T, she recently purchased an additional between $1k to $15k of stock in companies CRISPR Therapeutics.
  • Elizabeth Wilkins owns between $15k-$50k in stock in Mckesson Corp (medical device company) stock.
  • Thomas Zimmerman owns between $15-$50k of Johnson & Johnson stock, $1k to $15k of Gilead and Cerner (a medical technology stock) stock.

Photo Credit: “Doctor in face mask holding syringe with Covid-19 Vaccine text” by focusonmore.com and Jernej Furman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Ethics in GovernmentExecutive Branch

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