(Headline USA) President Joe Biden’s top science adviser, who was forced to resign this week over allegations that he mistreated staff, held on to nearly $1 million in BioNTech stock while he was pushing for COVID-19 vaccines on behalf of the administration.
Eric Lander, former head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, was one of the administration officials tasked with pushing widespread vaccination against COVID-19. However, he had a significant financial investment in one of the vaccine makers, according to financial disclosures.
Lander sold the bulk of his shares in BioNTech in June after he was confirmed by the Senate, but waited until Aug. 5 to sell the remaining stock, which was worth anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million, according to Politico. It just so happens BioNTech’s stock prices were at their second-highest price point when Lander sold everything off, at $404.92 a share.
Before he sold off his stock, Lander was publicly promoting COVID-19 vaccination. On Aug. 4, he wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post, “Coronavirus vaccines can end the current pandemic if enough people choose to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting vaccinated.”
Lander did not disclose his stock holdings in BioNTech in this op-ed.
A spokesperson for the OSTP dismissed the idea that Lander’s stockholdings were unethical.
“Your reporting shows Eric was fully legally compliant,” the spokesperson told Politico. “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.”
Lander resigned this week after an internal review, launched last year, found evidence that he bullied staffers and treated them disrespectfully.
In his resignation letter, Lander said, “I am devastated that I caused hurt to past and present colleagues by the way in which I have spoken to them.”
“I believe it is not possible to continue effectively in my role, and the work of this office is far too important to be hindered,” he added.