Does Rees-Mogg profit from the sale of abortion pills?
This one is true, or it used to be, but let’s look at the allegation of hypocrisy.
There are a couple elements to the hypocrisy as I see it, intent and materiality. Did Rees-Mogg, as a devout Catholic, knowingly invest in an abortion pill producer, and could he have sold out having found out he did? Is the amount of profit made material?
He has of course admitted to profiting “in a very roundabout way”. I’m going to take you around that roundabout – enjoy.
You can criticise my calculations here, but the actual accurate figure isn’t really relevant – what I’m trying to do is give a plausible range. Does he make millions? Thousands? Hundreds even?
Categorically no, he doesn’t and never did.
Let’s see the allegation – reported in the Independent in 2017:
“Jacob Rees-Mogg, who recently said he was against abortion even for pregnancies resulting from rape, has admitted that his investment firm profits from pills used in abortions.”
Somerset Capital Management manage a number of Emerging Markets funds on behalf of investors, so these funds belong to those investors, and SCM take a small fee for managing them. For Assets Under Management, SCM reported this to the SEC as $7.425bn as at August 2021. There’s probably a more up to date figure but it really doesn’t add anything to the discussion as we will see.
That $7.425bn AUM led to turnover of £27.7million. This report from September 2018 shows that SCM held £534,605 in one fund and £3,882,043 in another. So we’re looking at £4.4million in total.
Applying a $1.2 exchange rate to the AUM I make it that results in approximately £20,000 in fees for SCM. Now the £27.7million profit led to profits in the hands of members, like Rees-Mogg, of £9.7million. The accounts can be found here.
Therefore, applying the same ratios that £20K in revenue will lead to £7K in profit for the members. It is reported that Rees-Mogg has a 12% interest so that would make his profit £840 per year.
So does Rees-Mogg make £840 from abortion pills. No.
Kalbe Farma is a huge pharmaceutical and nutritional company based in Indonesia. From its website,
“Growing both organically and through mergers & acquisitions, Kalbe expands its business interests and transformed itself to become a provider of an integrated healthcare solution through its 4 business divisions: the Prescription Pharmaceutical Division (24% contribution), Consumer Health Division (17% contribution), Nutritionals Division (29% contribution) and Distribution and Logistics Division (30% contribution).”
So 24% is from prescription drugs, which makes Rees-Mogg’s profit from prescription drugs £200. Are we done? No.
The product in question is Invitec, which is the generic drug misoprostol. Generic drugs don’t tend to be particularly profitable, but leave that to one side.
Kalbe list their top products as Brainact, Broadced, Cefspan, Cernevit, CPG, Cravit, Hemapo, Mycoral, Neuralgin RX and Neurotam. No Invitec mentioned.
So how many prescription products do Kalbe actually produce? Hundreds – literally. I’m not counting them all, but they have 31 products beginning with A!
I can’t find a sales figure for Invitec, but let’s give it an extremely generous 5% of Kalbe’s total prescription sales. So there, Rees-Mogg makes £10 from abortion pills, is that fair? No.
Invitec is not an abortion pill. It’s sold in Indonesia as a treatment for stomach ulcers. Despite it not being marketed as such it is occasionally used as an abortion pill. Again, let us be very generous and say 10% of Invitec sales are for its unintended use.
Using very generous figures Rees-Mogg makes about £1 each year from abortion pills.
Let’s look at it another way. There isn’t any reliable information, possibly because abortions are illegal in Indonesia apart from in exceptional circumstances, but research suggests 2 million induced abortions per year, with an estimated 16% using pills. Research from here.
So that would suggest 320,000 pill-induced abortions in Indonesia per year. Let’s say, despite marketing their drug to treat ulcers, and the drug being generic, Kalbe has practically cornered the market and is used in 200,000 of those cases. I have found a price online of $30.50 for Invitec for 30 tablets, indicating sales of $6million, or IDR94billion. This would amount to 0.36% of Invitec’s total sales of IDR26.6trillion.
So, again using very generous figures, of Rees-Mogg’s £840 profit from Kalbe Rees-Mogg would make about £3.
Depending on your choice of calculation, that’s your range – somewhere between £1 and £3.
Now Rees-Mogg hasn’t made any investment decisions for SCM since he became an MP in 2010, so it’s highly likely that this investment wasn’t made by him. Could he have sold it when he became aware? No. This is a regulated fund and you can’t just decide to put religious crieria around your investment strategy to the cost of the investors.
So the investment choice was almost certainly not his, and he couldn’t have disposed of it on religious grounds if he wanted to, and the profit would barely be enough for a coffee – per year.
People can nit-pick, what about exports, how do we know more weren’t sold since we have no reliable figures, etc etc, but what they cannot possibly do is make the figure material.
Just as a piece of extra information which seemed to have escaped the notice of the Independent in November 2022 that these shares were sold at some point between March and September 2020.
To conclude, Rees-Mogg did profit for a number of years from the sale of stomach ulcer pills which were used as abortion pills, to the tune of about 2 quid per year. He almost certainly didn’t make the investment, and couldn’t have done anything about it once he became aware of it. The shares were sold a couple of years ago. If I was a betting man I would wager he made less than £10 from the sale of these pills for use in abortions for the entire period of the investment.
It’s ludicrous muckraking, not a serious allegation of hypocrisy.