Moderna faces shareholder pressure on vaccine costs

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Moderna is fighting a shareholder proposal demanding that the pharmaceutical group open its Covid-19 vaccine technology to the poorest countries and explains why its prices are so high given the amount of government aid it has received.

Legal & General Investment Management, the London-based asset manager, said Moderna shareholders deserve to know how US government funding for Covid vaccines affects “access to these products, like pricing.” .

Having received at least $ 2.5 billion from the U.S. government, Moderna shipped vaccines primarily to wealthy countries and did not transfer its technology to manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries, LGIM said.

Moderna is fighting the proposal with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Companies regularly challenge shareholder proposals at the SEC and often win.

Meanwhile, Oxfam has partnered with other investors to petition Moderna and Pfizer to demand that companies do more to share vaccine technology. For Moderna, the two shareholder proposals represent the first investor petitions the company has faced since its IPO in 2018.

Massachusetts-based Moderna did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Moderna has been under pressure to reduce prices and increase production for the poorest countries. Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, told the Financial Times last month that Moderna and Pfizer must “do more to address unacceptable disparities in global access to Covid-19 vaccines, including by significantly expanding vaccine manufacturing in the world “.

The two are expected to earn more than $ 93 billion next year from sales of Covid vaccines alone.

Moderna is in a particularly unusual position as she developed her vaccine in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health in the United States. Barney Graham, one of the NIH scientists involved in the development process, told the FT earlier this year that the government’s role in producing the vaccine would give it “leverage” over Moderna in regards to the price fixing.

But Moderna strongly objected to the suggestion, recently issuing a public statement rejecting the idea that Graham and two other government scientists co-invented the vaccine.

In its request to the SEC to block LGIM’s shareholder proposal, Moderna said it already plans to release additional information on vaccine pricing by February 15. “The company believes that it has substantially implemented the [LGIM] proposal before submitting his proxy [voting] materials, ”he said.

LGIM has already co-filed shareholder proposals at Eli Lilly and Gilead Sciences to split the roles of chairman and CEO of companies. In 2019, LGIM co-filed a proposal at BP regarding carbon emissions.


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