Even as the companies enlisted by the government’s Operation Warp Speed project to develop COVID-19 vaccines say they’re making quick progress, details of their lucrative federal contracts have been slow to emerge.
Although the Moderna contract is heavily redacted, it includes a list of contracting regulations that, if expanded, would include dozens or hundreds of pages of taxpayer protections, says attorney Franklin Turner, a partner at McCarter & English who specializes in government contracting. If the government doesn’t think Moderna is complying with the contract, for example, it has the right to terminate the contract and go after the company for damages.
“Are taxpayers being adequately protected as a matter of regulation? My answer is yes,” he says. The government “impose[s] extensive obligations on the contractor to govern the procurement.”
Turner says it isn’t typical to see such broad redactions in the work requirement section of the contract because that’s something the government sets and it shouldn’t include trade secrets. However, he says he believes “there’s nothing nefarious here.”