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CEOs of mRNA vaccine groups made $100 million in pandemic salaries

The CEOs of Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna have shared more than $100 million in salaries during the pandemic, reflecting the tremendous commercial success of the mRNA Covid vaccines being developed by their pharmaceutical companies.

Pfizer’s Albert Bourla, BioNTech’s Ugur Sahin and Moderna’s Stéphane Bancel have also seen their paper fortunes grow over the past two years as share prices have risen, fueled by investor enthusiasm for companies making vaccines and treatments for Covid-19 to develop.

The mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna have saved millions of lives during the pandemic while transforming the companies that develop them and sparking a surge in stock prices. Pfizer’s stock price is up 60 percent over the past 24 months, while shares in BioNTech and Moderna have tripled and quintupled, respectively.

Moderna’s Bancel and BioNTech’s Sahin have become paper billionaires due to their 7.8 percent and 17.1 percent stakes in the companies, which are valued at about $5.4 billion and $7.8 billion, respectively.

According to Airfinity, a data group, the BioNTech/Pfizer jab generated $37.5 billion in revenue last year and Moderna’s shot generated $17 billion.

An analysis of mRNA vaccine makers’ compensation packages in 2020 and 2021 shows that Pfizer CEO Bourla was awarded the largest pandemic pay rise. He received $45.3 million in 2020-2021 compared to $27.7 million in 2018-2019, a period during which he was promoted from chief operating officer to CEO in January 2019.

Sahin earned $30.8M in compensation in 2020-21 compared to $8.5M in 2018/2019.

Bancel’s total compensation fell during the pandemic from $67.5 million in 2018-2019 to $31.1 million in 2020-2021. But that was primarily due to a one-time gain following Moderna’s 2018 IPO that gave it $58.6 million in stock option gains.

Total compensation for the three mRNA developers increased to $107.2 million from 2020-2021, compared to $103.7 million in the previous two years.

Pandemic salaries of vaccine manufacturer CEOs

Pay experts said the pay results reflected the huge gains linked to the Covid vaccines but also how pay in the biopharma sector converged with other high-paying sectors such as banking.

Luke Hildyard, director of the High Pay Centre, a London-based think tank. said CEOs at top Wall Street banks like JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America still make more than pharma chiefs, typically $30 million or more a year, but the difference has narrowed.

He said both industries are made up of high-profile companies that operate in global markets and share comparable challenges of attracting, retaining and managing high-quality employees.

Some activists have criticized pay packages for vaccine manufacturers’ chief executives, accusing the companies of unfairly profiting from the pandemic and not doing enough to ensure affordable access to vaccines in poor countries.

“Bancel, Bourla and the other vaccine kings built royal fortunes based on a monopolistic business model that fueled vaccine apartheid,” said Steve Knievel, advocate for access to medicines at Public Citizen, a progressive think tank.

But there was little resistance from investors, who were richly rewarded for supporting the companies. “The vaccines offered an incredible return on investment from a societal perspective,” said Akash Tewari, an analyst at Jefferies, an investment bank.

“Most investors have no problem with executives being rewarded appropriately, especially when they have overseen such an increase in shareholder value.”

The biopharma industry said the rewards were justified given the extraordinary effort executives have put into developing Covid syringes during the pandemic.

“Thanks to their hard work, we developed a vaccine in record time and currently have multiple vaccines – enough to reach every corner of the world,” said John Murphy, chief policy officer at Bio, an industrial trade group.

According to data from Verity, Bancel has capitalized on Moderna’s phenomenal rise in market cap by selling $404 million worth of shares since January 2020. Bourla sold $5.6 million worth of shares on the same day as Pfizer and BioNTech called Their vaccine was 90 percent effective against Covid.

The “windfall gains” drew fire from Liberal Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren. who called the SEC to consider regulatory “reforms that would prevent abusive practices”.

Sahin has not made any significant stock sales.

Pfizer said Bourla’s bonus was appropriate given his exceptional leadership, focus on long-term strategy and contributions to the company’s performance in 2021.

Moderna said the increase in executive pay reflects significantly expanded responsibilities during the pandemic. It added that 94 percent of Bancel’s 2021 award is performance-based, consisting primarily of stock awards linked to the company’s performance over a four-year period.

https://www.ft.com/content/dc823d0e-9871-4c71-8651-377d0dac9d77 CEOs of mRNA vaccine groups made $100 million in pandemic salaries

Adam Bradshaw

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