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What You Need to Know About Merck & Co. (MRK)'s Fearless CEO Ken Frazier

8/15/2017 6:16:19 AM

What You Need to Know About Merck & Co.'s Fearless CEO Ken Frazier August 15, 2017
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

NEW YORK – Merck (MRK) Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Frazier resigned from a presidential manufacturing council on Monday, the first of three executives to do so in the wake of civil and racial unrest in Charlottesville, Va.

Frazier’s decision to resign from the President’s American Manufacturing Council was “a matter of personal consequence” for Frazier, one of the most high profile African American business leaders in the country. Frazier departed the council while President Donald Trump faced mass criticism for not decrying the racists in Virginia. Trump initially said there was blame “on many sides” before finally singling out the white supremacist elements on Monday, 48 hours after a woman died as a result of the unrest. However, it only took Trump less than an hour to call out Frazier on Twitter for quitting his manufacturing initiative. “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!,” Trump tweeted.

Since Frazier’s stand was made public on Monday, multiple media outlets have pieced together a telling biography of his background and character.

1. Frazier came from humble beginnings in Philadelphia. His father was a janitor with little formal education, but he was an avid reader of newspapers and later on his children’s textbooks, Forbes noted. Frazier rose above his inner-city childhood to attend Penn State and later Harvard Law School.

2. It was as an attorney that Frazier began his career with Merck. First in a lawsuit involving a subsidiary Merck owned, then later as the general counsel of Astra Merck Group, which was best known for the heartburn medication Prilosec. He joined the parent company in 1994 as head of public affairs and then in 1999 became the company’s chief counsel.

3. As chief counsel, Frazier was successful in defending the company in a series of lawsuits regarding the painkiller Vioxx, which Forbes said was withdrawn from the market in 2004 after reports of it being related to cardiac distress. Frazier’s legal maneuvering saved the company billions of dollars in liability, Forbes said, which helped secure his nomination as CEO in 2011.

4. While helping transform Merck behind key cancer assets such as Keytruda, Frazier has maintained a focus on social issues as well. Under Frazier’s leadership Merck suspended financial support of the Boy Scouts of America due to that organization’s stand on gay youths and troop leaders, Stat News reported.

5. He financially supported President Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, donating the maximum contributions allowed under law. Although it does not appear he supported Trump or Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign.

6. Frazier joined the manufacturing council in January after it was launched by Trump. After being named to the council, Frazier touted Merck’s numbers when it comes to investments in research and development. Most of that money remains in the United States, Frazier said at the time, according to Stat’s report.

7. Frazier has been a defender of Merck’s bottom line, particularly when it comes to drug prices. In January, he was behind publication of the company’s Pricing Action Transparency Report, which shows the average annual net price increases for drugs have remained in the “low to mid-single digits since 2010.” When the report was released, the company said Merck is exploring “alternative pricing and contracting arrangements by entering into value based contracts with payers.”

Following Frazier’s lead were also the CEOs for Under Armor and Intel. Each of the CEOs said they resigned because they wanted to take a stand for equality, intolerance and extremism that was highlighted by violent clashes between white nationalists and supremacists and counter protestors over the weekend. One woman was killed and 19 injured when one of the men marching with the white supremacist organizations allegedly drove his car into a crowd of protestors. He was later arrested.

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