October 30, 2020

Warren and Porter Urge Investigation into Abuse of Contracting Law to Create Ethics Loophole for Vaccine Czar Dr. Moncef Slaoui

Top Advisor to Operation Warp Speed, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, is evading conflict of interest disclosure and recusal requirements by serving under shadowy contract; "The Administration is harming public trust in the vaccine effort by abusing loopholes in federal contracting law to evade ethics requirements"

Text of Letter (PDF)

Letter to Dr. Slaoui (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-Calif.) have requested an investigation of the Trump administration's abuse of the federal contracting process to subvert ethics laws for Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the individual at the helm of Operation Warp Speed (OWS), the administration's COVID-19 vaccine research and development efforts. The administration has hired Dr. Moncef Slaoui, as OWS's chief scientist, via a contract with Advanced Decision Vectors, LLC that allows him to evade the ethics and conflict of interest requirements that apply to government employees.

"It is imperative that Operation Warp Speed succeed, and this success is contingent upon Americans being able to trust that the vaccine is safe and the individuals running OWS are acting with integrity, solely in the public interest, based on the scientific evidence," Senator Warren and Congresswoman Porter wrote. "The Administration is harming public trust in the vaccine effort by abusing loopholes in federal contracting law to evade ethics requirements."

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a former executive at GlaxoSmithKline, was appointed as the chief scientist of Operation Warp Speed in May 2020. When he was appointed to the position, he was working as a Partner at Medicxi Venture Capital and served as the Chairman of the Board at Galvani, a bioelectronics research and development company owned by GlaxoSmithKine and Verily Life Sciences. At this time he still holds about $10 million in GlaxoSmithKline stock and remains a Partner in Medicxi. Dr. Slaoui has indicated that he will not divest from his GlaxoSmithKline holdings.

If Dr. Slaoui were a federal employee he would be required to fully disclose and divest all of his holdings that present a potential conflict of interest. Instead, he was brought on as a contractor through a contract with Advanced Decision Vectors, LLC., under which he is paid very little for his services. As a result, he is exempt from federal ethics rules, allowing him to retain his GlaxoSmithKline stock and other holdings.

"Given that there appears to be a clear abuse of the federal contracting process to allow Dr. Slaoui to evade federal ethics rules, we ask you to conduct a full review of the Advanced Decision Vectors, LLC. contract for Operation Warp Speed, and Dr. Slaoui's role as a contractor for Operation Warp Speed, and examine as part of that review," the lawmakers wrote. "We must do all that we can to make certain that Americans can trust the vaccine development process and have confidence that the individuals running the process are acting in the public interest, not their own financial interests."

Senator Warren, Congresswoman Porter and several of their colleagues also wrote to Dr. Slaoui today and again urged him to resolve his outstanding conflicts of interest: "We would have no objections to your serving in this role and contributing your expertise if you simply resolved your obvious and impermissible financial conflicts. But if you are unwilling or unable to address your conflicts, then you should not be serving as part of OWS."

In June 2020, Senator Warren introduced the Coronavirus Oversight and Recovery Ethics (CORE) Act, which would address and eliminate conflicts of interest related to the federal pandemic response, in part by requiring advisors involved in pandemic response such as Dr. Slaoui to file public reports detailing their financial interests.