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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis arrives at a news conference in Miami on Aug. 3, 2021. (AP) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis arrives at a news conference in Miami on Aug. 3, 2021. (AP)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis arrives at a news conference in Miami on Aug. 3, 2021. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher August 19, 2021

Firm led by top donor to Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t a major Regeneron investor

If Your Time is short

  • Citadel CEO Ken Griffin is a top campaign donor to  DeSantis, but his firm isn’t a major investor in Regeneron, a company that makes a treatment for COVID-19 that DeSantis endorses.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has staked out positions contrary to public health guidance on COVID-19, opposing some preventive measures, while emphasizing treatment.

Now the Republican is being accused by a liberal group of favoring one of his political donors in his response to the pandemic.

DeSantis "has been discouraging masking and downplaying Covid vaccines," and instead is urging Floridians to use a treatment from the drug company Regeneron "after getting infected," Democratic Underground says in an Instagram post.

"You’ll be amazed to learn that the second-largest investor in Regeneron is Citadel Investment Group," whose CEO, Ken Griffin, is "DeSantis’ number one political donor," the post claims.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Griffin is a major campaign donor to DeSantis, but his firm is only a small investor in Regeneron, and one of more than a thousand institutions with a stake in the company. 

The governor’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw, said DeSantis "decided to actively promote Regeneron because it’s a clinically proven treatment that saves lives and alleviates pressure on hospitals. No donor had anything to do with the Governor’s decision."

Regeneron and its COVID-19 product

On Nov. 21, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization to Tarrytown, N.Y.-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. for its REGEN-COV to treat mild to moderate COVID-19. The product consists of two monoclonal antibodies, which are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses.

On Aug. 10, 2021, the FDA revised the authorization, allowing for emergency use of REGEN-COV as a preventive drug for people who are exposed to the virus and are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19. The agency said the treatment is not a substitute for vaccination. 

DeSantis has urged people infected with the virus to take the drug, which was used by former President Donald Trump after he became infected. On Aug. 18, DeSantis announced the opening of another state clinic that offers the treatment. The state promotes a website that lists sites for the treatment, along with COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. The governor’s office also referred us to the website.

Citadel is not Regeneron's second-largest investor

To support the first part of its claim — that Citadel Investment Group is the second-largest investor in Regeneron — Democratic Underground cited a June 28 Yahoo Finance article that says "the second-largest stake" in Regeneron is held by Citadel Investment Group, which "holds a $171.2 million call position."

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But that article was referring to a group of 39 hedge funds tracked by Insider Monkey, a finance website. Among those 39 hedge funds, the article said, Citadel had the second-largest investment in Regeneron. That does not make it the second-largest overall investor in Regeneron — not by a long shot.

The article said Citadel’s position was a $171.2 million call position. A call position by itself does not represent ownership — it’s an option to purchase stock. 

Asked about that discrepancy, Democratic Underground changed the text in its post to mention the call position and added a correction, but still erroneously referred to Citadel holding the second-largest call position in Regeneron.

Data from Nasdaq shows that as of June 30, Regeneron had more than 1,000 institutional investors. The top five were FMR LLC (known as Fidelity Investments), Blackrock, Vanguard Group, Capital World Investors and State Street. Each had between 4 million and 11 million shares.  

Citadel Advisors, part of Griffin’s company, owned 57,768 shares as of June 30, tripling its holdings from the previous quarter, according to Nasdaq. That amounts to less than 0.1% of Regeneron’s 105 million shares outstanding. 

DeSantis’ 'No. 1 donor'

The second part of the claim — that Griffin, CEO of Chicago-based Citadel, is DeSantis’ No. 1 donor — doesn’t state a time frame. But there is evidence that Griffin is a major donor.

Democratic Underground cited a May 10 Florida Politics article about donations to DeSantis’ political action committee in April. The article said Griffin was the largest donor, giving $5 million of the $14 million taken in that month. 

According to the Florida Division of Elections, Griffin made contributions totaling $5.75 million to DeSantis’ political action committee in 2018, when DeSantis won election as governor; and the $5 million contribution in April 2021. DeSantis is up for re-election in 2022, and is considered a likely candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

Florida Republican Party Executive Director Helen Aguirre Ferré told PolitiFact that Griffin "is one of the governor’s top donors."

Our ruling

Democratic Underground claimed that "the second-largest investor in Regeneron" is a firm whose CEO is DeSantis’ "number one political donor."

Citadel’s CEO is a major donor to the Florida governor’s political action committee, and his firm has investments in Regeneron, a company that makes a drug product for treating COVID-19.

But it is far from being the second-largest investor in Regeneron.

We rate the post Mostly False.

Our Sources

Instagram, post, Aug. 17, 2021

Email, Dave Allsopp, Democratic Underground administrator, Aug. 18, 2021

Yahoo Finance, "Is Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc (REGN) A Good Stock To Buy?", June 28, 2021

Email, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw, Aug. 18, 2021

Florida Politics, "Ron DeSantis political committee raises nearly $14 million in April," May 10, 2021 

Email, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske, Aug. 18, 2021

Email, Florida Republican Party executive director Helen Aguirre Ferré, Aug. 18, 2021

Twitter, Tampa Bay Times reporter Kirby Wilson tweets, Aug. 17, 2021

NASDAQ, "REGN Institutional Holdings," accessed Aug. 18, 2021

Associated Press, "DeSantis top donor invests in COVID drug governor promotes," Aug. 18, 2021

Fox News, "AP story on DeSantis promotion of effective COVID drug criticized as attempted hit job," Aug. 18, 2021

Washington Post, "DeSantis, faced with covid surge, urges Floridians to use Regeneron antibody treatment given to Trump," Aug. 13, 2021 

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. Schedule 14A (page 48), accessed Aug. 18, 2021 

Friends of Ron DeSantis, "Contributions," Aug. 13, 2021

Florida Division of Elections, database queries, Aug. 19, 2021

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Firm led by top donor to Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t a major Regeneron investor

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