Moderna president defends executive hiring process after CFO fiasco

Moderna’s chairman has launched a strong defense of the board’s executive recruitment process after he was forced to fire his new chief financial officer last week after just one day on the job.

Noubar Afeyan dismissed suggestions that the council could have done anything differently, insisting that he had asked all the right questions, but had not been informed of an internal investigation into the financial reports from Jorge Gomez’s former employer due to legal constraints.

Afeyan said the executive search firm hired by Moderna, the biotech company behind one of the leading Covid-19 vaccines, was also blameless because it was unaware of the maker’s probe. dental equipment from Dentsply Sirona, which was disclosed last week.

“I am absolutely convinced that the fact that these facts were not accessible to us had a legal context,” Afeyan said in an interview with the Financial Times, adding that there was no doubt “if we asked enough of questions or the right questions”. .

“The recruitment and vetting process, as well as the process with which we reacted to new facts that emerged, were very appropriate,” added Afeyan, who has chaired the biotech since co-founding it in 2010. “I can” I can’t think of a different approach that we could have taken under these circumstances.

Some corporate governance experts have criticized Moderna’s board for failing to spot potential problems at Dentsply, particularly after the dental group fired its former chief executive Don Casey on April 19 without explanation. Casey’s ousting occurred several weeks before Gomez began his new job at Moderna.

Gomez and Casey did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Companies the size of Moderna, which has a market valuation of $57 billion, typically do extensive due diligence on C-suite hires, and the biotech company’s failure to uncover problems with the former. Gomez’s employer has reignited longstanding concerns about his governance.

However, Moderna said it acted quickly after learning of Dentsply’s investigation and announced Gomez’s departure the following day, May 11.

The company has since said it will attempt to recoup Gomez’s $700,000 exit payment, the equivalent of one year’s salary, if wrongdoing is uncovered by the investigation.

Gomez’s departure has refocused attention on Moderna’s corporate culture. Several high-level executives have left the company in the past 18 months, including chief commercial officer Corinne Le Goff, who was expelled in December after less than a year in the role.

However, Afeyan said it was wrong to confuse an executive departure with a broader culture issue at Moderna, which underwent a transformation from a research-stage biotech company to a vaccine powerhouse during the pandemic.

He said: “I think a business that has grown from an unknown business of 700 people before Covid to 3,500 people today. . . the scale they’ve reached and the growth is quite commensurate leadership changes.

Afeyan said Gomez’s departure was not a significant setback for the company as former chief financial officer David Meline had agreed to return from retirement to the post until a successor could be found.

“David has built a very good mature financial organization. So I think we are up to the current task and we will find the suitable leader as soon as possible,” Afeyan said.

“We will do our best, as we have done before,” he added.

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