Watchdog group wants SEC to investigate coronavirus vaccine company Moderna

Watchdog group wants SEC to investigate coronavirus vaccine company Moderna
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An anti-corruption watchdog group is calling on the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) to investigate top executives at the biotech company Moderna for allegedly manipulating the stock market and possible insider trading.

In a letter dated June 1 and released Wednesday, the group Accountable.US said the trades, which centered around an announcement about promising vaccine trial results, are suspicious and urged the SEC to investigate.

"This misconduct was particularly egregious because it involved not only financial fraud and manipulation of the financial markets, but also because it exploited widespread fears surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic." Accountable.US. President Kyle Herrig wrote.

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Moderna is one of a handful of companies that the U.S. is working with to develop a coronavirus vaccine, and last month announced promising, but limited, results from initial trials.

The news pushed up the company's stock price 30 percent to an all-time high of $87, part of a massive 344 percent increase since the beginning of the year.

Moderna's promising trial results were called into question just a few days later by experts, and the stock price fell.  

According to the letter, at least two of senior executives and possibly others "may have improperly exploited coronavirus fears to boost the company’s value, as well as their own bank accounts, through the short-term financial boost from public announcements regarding the company’s vaccine testing."

The Hill has reached out to Moderna for comment. 

As the stock price rose following the announcements, the executives earned millions in profits from exercising options and selling shares. 

In the letter, Herrig questioned whether Moderna and its executives had coordinated ahead of releasing the trial results, including when the shares would be sold.

"If the executives knew about the results of Moderna’s test trials and public announcements relating to the trials, and set trades exploiting their foreknowledge ... they profited by violating the federal securities laws," Herrig wrote.