Warren, Blumenthal, Jayapal Obtain and Release Troubling New Information on Evasion of Federal Conflict of Interest Rules by Dr. Moncef Slaoui, Top Advisor to Trump Administration's COVID-19 "Operation Warp Speed"
Slaoui using loophole in federal ethics rules by working under $1 contract for "Advanced Decisions Vectors"; Lawmakers request information from contractor on how and why it is aiding Dr. Slaoui's evasion of ethics rules; "Dr. Slaoui's complicated arrangement is a clear attempt to circumvent federal ethics laws and allow him to maintain investment that would otherwise be illegal if he were properly brought into federal service"
Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) obtained and released new details on how Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief advisor to the Trump Administration's COVID-19 "Operation Warp Speed" response, is evading federal ethics laws by working under an HHS contract with a third party contractor, Advanced Decision Vectors, for $1. The lawmakers sent letters to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Advance Decision Vectors, LLC raising concerns about the arrangement by which Dr. Slaoui, a financially conflicted pharmaceutical executive, has been brought on to serve as chief advisor for Operation Warp Speed (OWS).
In June, the lawmakers sent a letter to HHS demanding that if Slaoui is to lead the administration's vaccine response, he be brought on as a federal official subject to federal ethics law and guidelines and that he fully resolve his glaring conflicts of interest. In response, HHS wrote that Dr. Slaoui is working under this contract as a "consultant" to the federal government - meaning that most ethics rules for government employees do not apply to him, and provided more information about his contract with HHS through a third-party firm called Advance Decision Vectors, LLC.
"While we appreciate your July 30 response letter regarding Dr. Slaoui's arrangement, we remain concerned that Dr. Slaoui's holdings and board positions continue to raise significant and unresolved conflicts of interest. We are also concerned that the steps HHS has taken to respond to Dr. Slaoui's conflicts are unprecedented, inadequate, and deeply inappropriate because they allow him to avoid addressing his conflicts of interest," wrote the lawmakers." The failure to resolve Dr. Slaoui's conflicts appears to serve no purpose other than enriching him personally - and it threatens the integrity and success of, and public confidence in, this critical response to COVID-19."
On June 15, 2020, the Trump Administration announced details about Operation Warp Speed, including the program's leadership. The program is currently led by Dr. Slaoui, a former executive at pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), where he worked for 29 years. Slaoui still holds stock in GSK, which has a trial vaccine for COVID-19, potentially having a direct pecuniary interest in at least one of the companies that will be vying for administration funding and regulatory action.
In the letter to HHS, the lawmakers request the full contract that has been awarded to Advance Decision Vectors, LLC, to understand the nature of Dr. Slaoui's OWS responsibilities and the degree to which he is permitted to gain financially from his role with OWS. The letter to Advance Decision Vectors, LLC, also requests the contract and asks additional questions about how and why Advanced Decision Vectors, LLC is allowing Dr. Slaoui to evade ethics rules.
"We write to request the contract that HHS has awarded to Advance Decision Vectors, LLC. Dr. Slaoui is working under this contract as a 'consultant' to the federal government, and information included in HHS' July 30, 2020 response to our June 15 letter raises new questions about this arrangement. We seek to more fully understand the nature of Dr. Slaoui's OWS responsibilities and to investigate the degree to which Dr. Slaoui is permitted to gain financially from his role with OWS," wrote the lawmakers. "Additionally, we reiterate our demand that-if he is to play any role in the administration's critical vaccine response-Dr. Slaoui be brought on as a government employee subject to the standard federal ethics law and guidelines applicable to other government employees, which would require him to resolve his glaring conflicts of interest."
Senators Warren, Blumenthal, and Congresswoman Jayapal introduced the Coronavirus Oversight and Recovery Ethics (CORE) Act, bicameral legislation that 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.
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