Most investors respect Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier’s decision to resign from US President Donald Trump’s manufacturing council, a move that preceded the outflow of other executives and led to the eventual disbanding of two panels mostly made up of business leaders. That’s according to a BMO Capital Markets analysts’ note, which we first spotted thanks to CNBC’s Meg Tirrell.
“Based on our conversations with investors, we believe most respect Mr. Frazier’s decision,” the analysts wrote. “Clearly, other business leaders are arriving at a similar conclusion and acting accordingly.”
Frazier resigned from the manufacturing council on Monday morning after the president failed to explicitly denounce white supremacists after violent clashes over the weekend. He was the only black member of the council and is one of the few black CEOs of a major US corporation.
“As CEO of Merck, and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism,” he said in a statement.
Merck is a pharmaceutical giant based in New Jersey known for making Gardasil, the vaccine designed to protect against the sexually transmitted infection HPV, and for a drug credited with helping former President Jimmy Carter get cancer-free.
Trump fired back at Frazier shortly after the CEO’s resignation, and turned the conversation toward drug pricing.
Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council,he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2017
The BMO Capital Markets team addressed that as well, saying: “It is unclear whether Mr. Frazier’s decision could lead to a more severe Executive Action (EA) targeting drug prices and whether such an EA would be viewed as retaliation by the President, thus, potentially compromising its success.”
“We doubt that an EA could have material impact on the branded Pharma industry,” they continued. “However, lowering drug prices is a politically attractive issue and there are reform areas that should have bipartisan support.”
Even if the drug pricing issue does grow more complicated, investors seem to think that Frazier’s decision to act on principle was the right one. Merck’s shares are slightly higher this week. As Bloomberg View’s Matt Levine wrote on Wednesday in his daily newsletter:
“This is a financial newsletter, but I have never assumed that the operations of capital are autonomous and self-executing, or that executives are robots who are programmed to maximize shareholder value to the exclusion of all other considerations. Corporations exist in society, and are not above society’s concerns. Businesses operate through human beings, who remain human in their roles as CEOs. One would hope.”