Vertex sacks top exec, citing ‘personal behaviour’

Vertex has fired its chief operating officer and acting chief financial officer, Ian Smith, citing unspecified “personal behaviour” in breach of its code of conduct.

The US pharma said that the decision was related to Smith’s behaviour and is unrelated to the company’s financial and business performance.

In a statement Vertex said that the board had made the decision after a “prompt and comprehensive” investigation assisted by an independent external counsel, WilmerHale.

Ian Smith

Paul Silva, who has been Vertex’s corporate controller and chief accounting officer since 2008 has been appointed interim CFO, effective immediately, while the company conducts a search to identify a permanent CFO.

Joining the company in 2008, Silva has been responsible for global accounting, tax, treasury and other key areas.

The announcement sent Vertex’s shares down by 2% on the Nasdaq, as investors were spooked by the departure of Smith, who had been with Vertex since 2001 and was appointed as COO and CFO in January 2017.

Vertex has removed Smith’s bio from its website – but a cached page shows Smith held responsibility for a whole host of functions including accounting, finance, strategic sourcing, pharmaceutical operations, and investor relations.

Before working for Vertex, Smith served as a partner in the Life Science and Technology Practice Group of accounting firm Ernst & Young from 1999 to 2001.

Smith also serves on the boards of Acorda Therapeutics and Infinity Pharmaceuticals, and serves as the chairman of the audit committee for Infinity. These companies have not commented on the development.

He received a BA with honours in accounting and finance from Manchester Metropolitan University and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, and the Financial Executives Institute.

Vertex CEO Jeffrey Leiden said: “At Vertex, we are deeply committed to our culture of diversity, inclusion and respect, and we insist that all of our employees, regardless of their seniority, live our values and adhere to our code of conduct.”

“This decision was not related to any conduct concerning the company’s operations or finances.”

In England, Vertex is still locked in a row over the reimbursement of its cystic fibrosis drugs on the NHS after NICE rejected Orkambi in 2016.




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