Executives and directors at pharmaceutical firms Pfizer, Moderna, and 11 other drug companies sold more than 8.5 million shares of the firms’ stocks, reaping $496 million as share prices rose last year on news of positive developments in COVID vaccine development, the Wall Street Journal reported on 18 February.
In contrast, executives at those companies sold 4.7 million shares in 2019, collecting $132 million, data from research firm Kaleidoscope shows.
At Moderna, executives unloaded $321 million worth of shares in more than 700 individual sales, data revealed. Merck & Co. insiders sold $58 million worth of stock. Novavax bosses collected $40 million from personal stock sales as the firm’s vaccine research yielded positive news last August and September.
Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s CEO, sold about 60 percent of his company stock for about $5.6 million the same day in November the firm announced positive results in its vaccine development.
Many of the sales were made as part of executives’ 10b5-1 compensation plans that were in place before the COVID vaccines’ development began, companies said.
The sales prompted some regulators to call for “cooling-off” periods between the announcement of market-moving news and executives cashing out stock holdings.

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