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Alleged workplace bully Eric Lander, the soon-to-be-ex White House science advisor and COVID-19 jab advocate, may have had a conflict of interest revolving around a sizeable stake in Pfizer vaccine partner company BioNTech.
Biden cabinet member Lander, a Ph.D. mathematician and the departing director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in the Biden administration, “had 90 days from his confirmation in May 2021 to divest his stocks and, while he unloaded the bulk of them in June, he waited to sell the BioNTech shares, worth $500,000 to $1 million, until Aug. 5,” the Washington Examiner reported about the information contained in financial disclosures.
Linder also touted the vaccine in an Op-Ed in The Washington Post, the day before the transaction, without disclosing his stock holdings, Politico, which broke the story, reported.
A prior Boston Globe article, updated on February 9, 2022, now contains an epilogue that reads “At the time this column was published, Eric Lander held stock in BioNTech SE, Pfizer’s partner on the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Who’s a better stock advisor, Eric Lander or Nancy Pelosi? 👀 https://t.co/FkP5UqFbts
— Matthew Foldi (@MatthewFoldi) February 9, 2022
An OSTP spokesperson told Politico, however, that there is nothing to see here. “Your reporting shows Eric was fully legally compliant. The law is clear – and conversations and opinion pieces telling people they should get vaccinated during a global pandemic are not even close to an ethics concern,” the spokesperson insisted.
Not everyone apparently agrees with that premise, however.
“But people familiar with discussions around his divestiture said that Lander…was aware of the political sensitivities of the holdings and had high-level discussions about them. And government watchdog groups say the arrangement raises questions about conflicts of interest and whether shortfalls exist in the ethics pledges that the White House has implemented,” Politico — which tends to lean left — noted.
Shortfalls also allegedly existed in the way Linder interacted with White House staff, prompting his planned February 18 resignation from the Biden administration.
A two-month internal investigation reportedly revealed that he treated colleagues in a demeaning or abrasive way.
WH official resigns for mistreating staffers after Biden’s vow of zero tolerance falls flat via @BIZPACReview – https://t.co/6zf6XAdcYa
— Bo Snerdley (@BoSnerdley) February 8, 2022
“In an office of roughly 140 people, 14 current and former OSTP staffers who worked under Lander this past year shared similar descriptions of a toxic work environment where they say Lander frequently bullied, cut off and dismissed subordinates,” Politico noted.
“Lander, before he was forced to resign for bullying his staff, was the richest member of the president’s Cabinet, with a net worth of $45 million. On the day of the sale, BioNTech had reached its second highest stock price ever at $404.92 a share, having shot up more than $50 a share just two days prior,” the Daily Mail claimed.
“But as a member of the president’s Cabinet, it was part of Lander’s job to promote the administration’s vaccination efforts. Not only did Lander promote the vaccine publicly before selling off the last of his Pfizer stocks, he also met with the president to discuss his multibillion dollar plan to fight the pandemic. But the White House told Axios last February that Lander would not work on any issues that could benefit his sizable portfolio until he was fully divested,” the news outlet added.
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