Novavax, Florida Cancer Center Build Legal Teams After Scrutiny

April 14, 2021, 8:13 PM

Novavax Inc. and the Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute LLC have added in-house talent after separately facing legal scrutiny for actions the companies’ leaders took.

Novavax, currently working on a vaccine for Covid-19 and coping with claims that its leaders lined their pockets while the company embarked on the effort, announced Monday the addition of chief compliance officer Troy Morgan. He will join the biotechnology company April 19 and report to chief legal officer John Herrmann III.

FCS, a Fort Myers, Fla.-based oncology provider, disclosed a week earlier its addition of chief legal officer Nancy Ardell. She was most recently the top lawyer for Northwest Community Healthcare, a nonprofit health system in suburban Chicago.

Ardell joins FCS after its founder and former president, William Harwin, was charged by federal prosecutors in September with engaging in a criminal antitrust conspiracy.

Harwin is accused of dividing the chemotherapy and radiation treatment market in southwest Florida. The allegations stem from a $100 million antitrust settlement that FCS reached with the Justice Department a year ago.

Harwin, who has denied wrongdoing, was unsuccessful in his effort to dismiss the case in February. Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber and Miami’s Markus/Moss are representing Harwin, who will go to trial later this year.

FCS spokeswoman Michelle Robey said the company couldn’t discuss Harwin.

“We remain focused and steadfast in our commitment of providing patients with world-class, value-based cancer care in community-based settings, close to home, as we have for over 35 years,” Robey told Bloomberg Law via email.

Ardell, who has almost two decades of in-house experience in the health care and senior living sector, will oversee legal, risk management, insurance, compliance, claims and litigation, and workers compensation, FCS said April 5.

Robey said Ardell was hired following a nationwide search for a successor to former legal chief Thomas Clark, who in February returned to Fort Myers-based law firm Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt as a partner. Clark had been FCS’ top lawyer since 2012, Robey said. Harwin started FCS in 1984.

Novavax, which is based in Gaithersburg, Md., and has additional operations in Sweden and the Czech Republic, received $1.6 billion from the U.S. government last year to support manufacturing of its two-dose treatment for Covid-19.

A complaint filed against Novavax by an investor was unsealed last month in Delaware Chancery Court accusing senior executives—including Herrmann—of enriching themselves with lucrative equity awards as the company’s stock price shot up while it made progress on its Covid-19 vaccine.

Neither Novavax or Morgan responded to requests for comment about the lawsuit or the impetus for creating a top compliance position.

New Novavax Recruits

Novavax said in a statement that Morgan “will oversee the strategic direction of the company’s comprehensive compliance program in a newly created role” that will report to Herrmann, who was promoted last summer to lead corporate and business development after serving as general counsel and corporate secretary.

“We welcome Troy’s specialized expertise in global compliance regulations and requirements as we look toward commercialization and work to efficiently deliver our vaccine around the world in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Novavax CEO Stanley Erck in a statement.

Morgan will join Novavax after spending the past year as compliance chief for EMD Serono Inc., a North American biopharmaceutical subsidiary of German conglomerate Merck KGaA. He previously held compliance roles at General Electric Co.’s GE Healthcare, Biogen Inc., and Bioverativ Inc.

Morgan also briefly served as senior vice president of compliance in 2019 for Curaleaf Holdings Inc., a Wakefield, Mass.-based cannabis company that shook up its in-house legal leadership last year.

Novavax, which currently lists online jobs portal openings for about a dozen in-house legal roles, has, like some other Covid-19 vaccine developers, been busy in recent months ramping up its legal, compliance, and regulatory expertise.

The company has nabbed two lawyers from Qiagen NV, a German molecular diagnostics company. They are Jane Shershenovich, senior director of legal affairs, intellectual property, and transactions, and Edward Yip, vice president of legal affairs.

Novavax also brought on life sciences legal consultant Julia Rosenthal in January as director of legal affairs and contracts. In November, the company appointed to its board Gregg Alton, a former chief patent officer, general counsel, and compliance chief at Gilead Sciences Inc.

That same month Novavax hired Danielle Fredericks, an attorney and senior adviser to former Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, to be its director of government affairs.

Fredericks is working with Kelly Cappio, a non-lawyer senior director for public policy and market access also hired by Novavax last year, to lobby on issues related to Covid-19 vaccines, according to public filings with the U.S. Senate.

A Lucrative Business

News of Morgan’s hire by Novavax was announced in tandem with the departure of CFO Gregory Covino, who the company said stepped down for personal reasons but will remain an executive adviser.

Covino will be replaced on an interim basis by Novavax chief business and commercial officer John Trizzino.

Trizzino and Novavax’s top lawyer Herrmann—but not Covino—are among the defendants named in the complaint filed against the company in Delaware last month by investor Thomas Golubinski. The unsealed derivative lawsuit, parts of which remain redacted, accuses Novavax senior leaders of inappropriately profiting from the company’s success in securing a vaccine for Covid-19.

Aside from the funds that Novavax received from the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed, the company also was awarded nearly $400 million last year by the Oslo, Norway-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to help fund the research and development of a potential cure for Covid-19.

Herrmann, who joined Novavax in 2012, received nearly $1.4 million in total compensation from Novavax in 2019, according to Golubinski’s complaint and the company’s most recent proxy statement. Bloomberg data shows that he currently owns nearly $50,000 in Novavax stock.

Since early 2020, however, Herrmann has sold off roughly $16.8 million in Novavax stock, according to securities filings. Reuters reported in January that Herrmann was one of four top Novavax executives to cash out of $46 million in company stock, joining C-suite colleagues at other drug companies reaping the benefits from stock options that vested from hitting milestones in Covid-19 vaccine development.

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
John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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