Merck CEO quits Trump council

America’s leaders must honour our fundamental values, says Frazier

NEW YORKMerck & Co’s CEO resigned from President Donald Trump’s council of manufacturing executives yesterday, saying “America’s leaders must honour our fundamental values” by rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy.

He was almost immediately attacked by Trump on Twitter.

Following a weekend of violence in Virginia involving white-supremacist groups that Trump has been criticised for not explicitly condemning, Merck CEO Ken Frazier (picture) said “as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism”.

Less than an hour later, Trump tweeted in response, “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

The council has included top executives from Boeing Co, Dow Chemical Co and Johnson & Johnson. Frazier’s resignation — the latest CEO to quit one of Trump’s high-profile executive advisory groups — comes after a weekend of violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in one death.

Frazier is an African-American CEO — a rarity in large American corporations — and Merck has sometimes taken stands on social issues. In 2012, the Kenilworth, New Jersey-based company’s foundation ended funding for the Boy Scouts of America over the group’s exclusion of gays from its leadership ranks. He is a registered Democrat, according to Pennsylvania voter records.

Other CEOs have also stepped down from the various business-advisory groups pulled together by the Trump administration. Earlier this year, Elon Musk of Tesla Inc and Walt Disney Co CEO Bob Iger quit a strategy and policy panel after Trump withdrew from the Paris climate pact.

Former Uber Technologies Inc CEO Travis Kalanick quit in February after Trump’s executive order on immigration. The manufacturing group, spearheaded by Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris, hasn’t met in five months.

Trump made US drug prices an issue during the presidential campaign and after — at one point accusing drug companies of “getting away with murder”.

While his rhetoric on the subject has cooled, the Food and Drug Administration has taken steps to try and bring more competition to the market for some drugs, and speed more generic drugs to the market.

Frazier, in December, said his company has a “restrained” approach to price increases, calling aggressive price increases a foolhardy move by the industry.

Merck shares were up less than 1% in trading before the markets opened in New York. — Bloomberg