Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ:MRNA) is one of the biotech companies that are developing COVID-19 vaccines, and if the company wins, it could earn billions in stock appreciation and sales. However, if it doesn’t succeed, its value could decline.
Moderna executives selling shares
For now, the CEO of Moderna, Stephane Bancel is earning millions of dollars each month through the sales of stock, which has almost tripled in value on COVID-19 vaccine development progress. Since January to June 26, 2020, Bancel’s share sales, which include those held under his children’s trust and companies, have been around $21 million. Also, Moderna Chief Medical Officer, Tal Zaks, sold most of his available shares in the company since January, earning almost $35 million.
Bancel has set a schedule of the sale of his shares under the 10b5-1 plan before the COVID-19 crisis. These kind of stock-sale plans are meant to prevent insider trading from company executives. The plans prevent advance selling from executives who might have knowledge about bad news on the way or putting off selling of stock until when there is a positive announcement. On March 13, 2020, Zaks put in place a new plan which has seen him cash on almost all his interest. This was days before the biotech company announced the first-in-human dosing of its COVID-19 vaccine setting the stock on a 24% surge.
Executives profiting from short-lived optimism of vaccine breakthrough
Executive compensation experts indicated that these lucrative liquidations are a reflection of the unusual incentives for company executives to highlight development milestones for products that aren’t sold or approved. They stated that an optimistic company statement on COVID-19 vaccines can result in overpaying for stock or create false optimism among health officials and the public.
Harvard Law School professor Jesse Fried stated that sales give the executives a rare opportunity to earn big on short-lived market optimism. Fried added that for company execs, this could be chance of profiting should the vaccine fail to work. Normally company executives have discretion of information, and as a result, they have the motivation to keep share prices up.