Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky

ISS joins Glass Lewis in recommending vote against J&J CEO’s pay package

(Reuters) – Proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has joined Glass Lewis in recommending investors reject a proposed pay package of nearly $30 million for Johnson & Johnson Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky.

J&J is attracting investor scrutiny because it partially shields Gorsky from some $9 billion in costs over two years that have arisen from lawsuits claiming the healthcare company fueled the U.S. opioid crisis and allegations of asbestos in its talc baby powder.

In a note to shareholders on Thursday, ISS said “…investors may nonetheless expect an explanation from the company of how the compensation committee considered the extraordinarily large litigation charges when making compensation decisions.”

Last week, Glass Lewis based its recommendation on the argument that the healthcare company was shielding its top executives from the legal cost of poor business decisions.

J&J did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ISS note outside regular business hours.

The company has previously said it has always set aside certain one-time costs, such as litigation, when calculating stock awards for executives, an approach common across corporate America.

Gorsky’s compensation totaled $29.6 million in 2020, up 17% from the previous year. A non-binding resolution on the pay packages will be up for a vote at the company’s annual general meeting on April 22.

Gorsky, who became CEO in 2012, has been at the helm of J&J during the opioid abuse and addiction crisis, which according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claimed nearly 450,000 lives in the United States between 1999 and 2018.

In 2019, 50,000 people died in the U.S. from opioid related overdoses, according to the National Institute of Health.

J&J has denied any part in fueling the crisis.

Reporting by Shubham Kalia and Akriti Sharma in Bengaluru, and Greg Roumeliotis in New York: Editing by Neil Fullick

Futures jump on J&J vaccine cheer, stimulus optimism

U.S. stock index futures jumped more than 1% on Monday as Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved COVID-19 vaccine and progress in a new $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package fueled optimism over a swift economic recovery.

Shares of cruise liner and hotel operators, and carriers including Carnival Corp, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd Hilton, Delta Air Lines Inc and American Airlines gained between 1% and 5% premarket.

Johnson & Johnson began shipping its single-dose shot vaccine after it became the third authorized COVID-19 vaccine in the United States over the weekend.

President Joe Biden scored his first legislative win as the House of Representatives passed his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package early Saturday. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Sectors that stand to benefit more from an economic rebound outperformed, with Bank of America Corp, Citigroup Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co jumping between 1.3% and 2.2%, and energy firms Chevron Corp and Exxon Mobil Corp between 1.6% and 3.5%.

Wall Street’s main indexes ended lower last week, with the Nasdaq suffering its worst week in four months, as a rise in long-dormant yields signaled bonds are more serious investment competition, sparking a pullback in high-valuation tech stocks.

Apple, Microsoft Corp, Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc rebounded between 1.3% and 2.3% on Monday.

At 06:03 a.m. ET, Dow E-minis were up 318 points, or 1.03% and S&P 500 E-minis were up 42.25 points, or 1.11%. Nasdaq 100 E-minis were up 186.75 points, or 1.45%.

South Africa turns to Johnson & Johnson Covid jab

The South African government has outlined its amended coronavirus immunisation plans. 

They were put on hold when a trial suggested that the AstraZeneca jabs which were due to be distributed were less effective against a local variant of the virus. 

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said a Johnson and Johnson vaccine would be used to immunise health workers, even though it has yet to be approved in South Africa. 

He said it would be deployed as part of an implementation study. 

The minister said doses of the Pfizer vaccine had also been secured.

He added that the authorities were considering selling doses of AstraZeneca vaccine the country had bought.

“Why not sell the AstraZeneca … well it’s an option. We will consider it, … first our scientists must tell us what to do with it,” he told a news conference.