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Moderna Finds Legal Chief in Novartis’ Departing Top Lawyer (1)

March 8, 2021, 3:15 PM; Updated: March 8, 2021, 7:10 PM

Moderna Inc. announced Monday its hire of outgoing Novartis AG chief legal officer Shannon Thyme Klinger, who will take over leadership of the coronavirus vaccine maker’s legal group starting June 1.

“Shannon’s deep global experience in the pharmaceutical industry in both the general counsel and ethics and compliance roles are critical to Moderna as we pivot to a broad international and commercial footprint,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement announcing Klinger’s hire.

Klinger, who will report directly to Bancel, will also serve as Moderna’s corporate secretary and as a member of its executive committee.

In a statement of her own, Klinger said it was an “honor” to join the leadership team at Cambridge, Mass.-based Moderna “at such a remarkable moment in the transformation of the company.”

Moderna announced in late February that it had closed on more than $18 billion in signed agreements for supplies of its two-dose vaccine for Covid-19. Klinger said Moderna’s “relentless focus” on innovation drew her to the company.

“I look forward with enthusiasm to joining Moderna and helping continue to build an organization that supports the long-term demands of our evolving business, science, development programs, and efforts to bring mRNA medicines to patients,” she said.

Novartis announced last week that Klinger will step down from the Swiss drug giant March 15. She’s set to be replaced on an interim basis by Thomas Kendris, the company’s U.S. country president and its global head of litigation.

Neither lawyer returned requests for comment March 5 about Klinger’s new role, which Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis said in a statement that day would see her return to the U.S. to join “a biotechnology company.”

Novartis declined to discuss further Klinger’s departure with Bloomberg Law.

Moderna also declined to comment about Klinger’s potential hire as a successor for general counsel Lori Henderson, whose pending retirement the company disclosed last year. Henderson, a former Goodwin Procter partner, joined Moderna in 2018.

“I would like to thank Lori once again for her significant contributions during her time at Moderna,” Bancel said. “She helped us build a world class legal team even as we transitioned from a private to public company.”

Goodwin, Henderson’s former law firm, advised Moderna on its initial public offering in December 2018 and counseled the company last year on a $1.3 billion share sale that raised funds for Covid-19 vaccine development.

Moderna, founded in 2010, has been busy in recent months building out its legal group, including adding former Novartis senior legal counsel Lisa Kinsella as an associate general counsel in its European headquarters in Basel.

Klinger took over in 2018 as the top in-house lawyer at Novartis, succeeding Felix Ehrat following his resignation from the position in the aftermath of a payments scandal involving Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer for President Donald Trump. Klinger, a former Alston & Bird and Mayer Brown partner, had previously been head of litigation and chief ethics, risk, and compliance officer at Novartis.

During her time as legal chief at Novartis, Klinger introduced a program mandating that the company’s outside legal advisers adopt diversity and inclusion goals.

Bloomberg data shows that Klinger owns more than $2.4 million in Novartis stock. The company disclosed in an annual report filed last month that Klinger received more than $4.3 million in total compensation during 2020. Klinger’s pay in U.S. dollars was calculated using current Swiss franc exchange rates.

Moderna didn’t make Henderson, its retiring legal chief, one of its top five highest-paid executives in 2019, according to its most recent annual proxy statement. Henderson currently owns $119,000 in Moderna stock, per Bloomberg data.

Securities filings by the company show that Henderson has sold off at least $12.6 million in Moderna stock since early 2020.

(Updates story throughout with more details about Klinger's hire.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com
Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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