• Albert Bourla sold 132,508 Pfizer shares for $5.6 million
  • Sale was part of a preapproved plan managed by third-party stock administrators: Pfizer
  • Pfizer and BioNTech's shares surged Monday following news of a promising vaccine

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla sold nearly 60% of his stock in the company the day it announced promising efficacy rates of its COVID-19 vaccine in clinical trials.

The shares of Pfizer and BioNTech surged when preliminary data from their drug tests revealed a more than 90% efficacy rate.

Bourla sold as many as 132,508 Pfizer shares at a price of $41.94, which brings the total sale to nearly $5.6 million, according to the company’s filing with the SEC. The 52-week high for Pfizer’s stock is $41.99, which means Bourla sold the shares at almost its highest price.

Reports suggest that this sale was part of a preapproved plan under which major shareholders and members of listed corporations trade a ‘predetermined’ number of shares at a decided time.

A CNN report quotes a Pfizer spokesperson saying that the sale of shares happened because the stock hit a predetermined price as part of a plan managed by third-party stock administrators, signed off by Bourla on Aug. 19.

On Monday, Sally Susman, executive vice president at Pfizer, also sold nearly 42,600 shares at the same price in a transaction worth $1.8 million. This was also said to be part of a prearranged plan.

It is not uncommon for executives to sell their shares and branch out in their investment processes, but it is usually timed in a way so it does not seem that they are cashing in on a sudden boost in their company stocks.

After their announcement regarding the vaccine, Pfizer’s shares rose by 8% Monday, and BioNTech rose by a whopping 15% Monday and 8% Tuesday.

In a similar way, pharma company Moderna saw a rise in its share price in June when it announced promising results of its COVID-19 drug trials, before falling flat within a week. The company raised nearly $1.3 billion by selling its stock after the announcements. It was also accused of market manipulation, the CNN report stated.

People walk by the Pfizer world headquarters in New York on November 9, 2020
People walk by the Pfizer world headquarters in New York on November 9, 2020 AFP / Kena Betancur