Merck CEO Frazier takes voting-rights fight nationwide, with help from a bigger group of influential execs

Merck CEO
Merck CEO Ken Frazier led an effort to defend voting rights nationwide. (PhRMA)

Merck CEO Ken Frazier is going national with the fight for voting rights.

After joining other Black executives in publicly slamming Georgia's election law last month, Frazier has recruited a much larger group of business leaders to defend voting rights around the country.

In recent days, Frazier and former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault organized a statement in defense of voting rights and gathered signatures from hundreds of business leaders, including Warren Buffet and executives at Amazon and Google, The New York Times reports

The executives, who represent numerous industries, said that "regardless of our political affiliations, we believe the very foundation of our electoral process rests upon the ability of each of us to cast our ballots for the candidates of our choice."

"For American democracy to work for any of us, we must ensure the right to vote for all of us," they added.

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The statement, which includes backing from GM and Starbucks, opposes Republican efforts in states around the country to limit voting rights, the Times reports. 

For Frazier, it continues an ongoing fight. Late last month, he and Chenault were among a large group of Black executives who took a public stand against the new election law in Georgia. 

As the Merck CEO sees it, defending voting rights is not a partisan action. 

“These are not political issues,” he told the Times. “These are the issues that we were taught in civics.” 

RELATED: Merck CEO Frazier joins army of Black execs speaking out on restrictive voting-rights laws 

Meanwhile, a group of biopharma execs on Wednesday published their stance in defense of voting rights in Endpoints. That group includes Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos, Vir CEO George Scangos, United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt and dozens of other leaders in the industry. 

Frazier—who is set to step down as CEO at the end of June—hasn’t shied away from political discourse. In 2017, after former President Donald Trump’s equivocal response to the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Merck CEO bowed out of a presidential manufacturing council.  

“America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy,” he said in a statement at the time.  

RELATED: Ken Frazier to retire as Merck CEO after 10-year run, handing the baton to CFO Robert Davis 

Last year, Frazier led an industry protest against systemic racism after the death of George Floyd from police in Milwaukee and the deaths of other police violence victims. The CEO told CNBC that the police were “clearly inhumane” and that Floyd had been a victim of the “opportunity gap” that affects many African Americans. Other CEOs, such as Amgen’s Robert Bradway and Vertex’s Reshma Kewalramani, voiced support.

Merck in February said that Frazier would retire as CEO at the end of June. CFO Robert Davis will take the helm, and Frazier will continue to serve as executive chairman. Frazier has served as Merck's CEO since January 2011.