March 15, 2006

Rumsfeld's Halliburton

... is called Gilead Sciences.

The UK Independent has revealed further details of Donald Rumsfeld's profiteering from bird flu fears. Michael Moore has the full article online here.
The US Defence Secretary has made more than $5m (£2.9m) in capital gains from selling shares in the biotechnology firm that discovered and developed Tamiflu...

Mr Rumsfeld was on the board of Gilead from 1988 to 2001, and was its chairman from 1997. He then left to join the Bush administration, but retained a huge shareholding .

The firm made a loss in 2003, the year before concern about bird flu started. Then revenues from Tamiflu almost quadrupled, to $44.6m, helping put the company well into the black. Sales almost quadrupled again, to $161.6m last year. During this time the share price trebled.

Mr Rumsfeld sold some of his Gilead shares in 2004 reaping - according to the financial disclosure report he is required to make each year - capital gains of more than $5m. The report showed that he still had up to $25m-worth of shares at the end of 2004, and at least one analyst believes his stake has grown well beyond that figure, as the share price has soared. Further details are not likely to become known, however, until Mr Rumsfeld makes his next disclosure in May.
Of course, Tamiflu is not the only cash cow in Rumsfeld's portfolio:
The 2005 report showed that, in all, he owned shares worth up to $95.9m, from which he got an income of up to $13m, owned land worth up to $17m, and made $1m from renting it out.

He also had illiquid investments worth up to $8.1m, including in partnerships investing in biotechnology, issuing reproductions of paintings, and operating art galleries in New Mexico and Wyoming. He also has life insurance with a surrender value of up to $5m, and received up to $1m from the DHR Foundation, in which he has assets worth up to $25m, and $773,743 from the Donald H Rumsfeld Trust, in which he has assets of up to $50m.
Back in October 2005, Rumsfeld recused himself from government decisions concerning medications to prevent or treat avian flu, rather than sell his stock holdings in Gilead.
Rumsfeld consulted a private securities lawyer, who advised him that it was safer to hold on to the stock and be quite public about his recusal rather than sell and run the risk of being accused of trading on insider information, something Rumsfeld doesn't believe he possesses. So he's keeping his shares for the time being.
Soon after Rumsfeld recused himself, the US Senate passed a resolution allowing Bush to spend $8 billion in emergency funding at his discretion. Of course, Gilead got a huge chunk of that money.

Now, given what we know about the Bush administration's manipulation of scientific advice, it would be very interesting to know exactly WHO advised governments around the world to stock up on Tamiflu. The answer, it seems, is scientists and advisors connected to the corporate giant Roche, who are the global manufacturers of Tamiflu (Gilead gets 10% of sales profits). The media have also done their part in spreading the story.
"Given where we are, with the potential for a pandemic, the clearest vision we can have is to dramatically increase the availability of this drug and make all information available," said David Reddy, Roche's influenza pandemic task force leader.
All information, David? It is interesting to note that Tamiflu has been linked with suicide and even found to be useless in certain circumstances. And attempts to boost the much-demanded global stocks of Tamiflu with another product were met with little interest from Roche. Be afraid. But not too afraid.

Mind you, Rumsfeld's not the only US politician profiteering from Bird Flu fears:
"I don't know of any biotech company that's so politically well-connected," says analyst Andrew McDonald of Think Equity Partners in San Francisco.
The fear-mongering may be great business for Rumsfeld & Co., but it is putting huge pressure on poultry farmers around the world. For example, this BBC report shows the impact on small farmers in Lebanon:
"We've had to pay the price of bird flu without having it," says Samir Freiji, of Freiji Agri Business.

He blames the media: "Every day you watch it on TV. Every cat that dies in China is reported. Every falcon that dies in Saudi Arabia is reported. A chicken dies in Germany, it's reported.

"So really, they are continuously reminding people of the problem."
Another BBC report charts the impact on Nigerian farmers:
I am going crazy.

At the moment I have nothing to do, I have no meat to eat or money and I have no-one to help.

All I do is sit out, and watch people go by...

I had been employing 25 workers on my farm but now I don't have money to eat, never mind pay them and some look like they are going to commit suicide.

There is no hope anymore.
The much-publicised threat of a deadly bird flu variant that spreads from human to human is yet to emerge. It seems that bird flu, like terrorism, is a "war" against an invisible enemy that may be waged for many decades to come.

Note to Donny: When this is all over, there should be good opportunities for global giants in the poulty industry.

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