OncoGenex finance chief resigns after ‘personal relationship’ develops with CEO

Michelle Burris

Michelle Burris, the chief financial officer at Bothell biotechnology company OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals, has resigned from her post after disclosing a “developing personal relationship” with CEO Scott Cormack.

After the relationship was disclosed to the board, the company determined that Burris should hand over her executive duties to others in the company. She will continue to serve as executive vice president of operations until March 31, and if she releases all claims from the company for one year she will continue to be paid as consultant with a monthly retainer of $34,000.

Both Burris, 46, and Cormack, 47, are single, reports Xconomy. Shares of OncoGenex are up slightly in Nasdaq trading today, with the company trading at $12.49. It has a market value of $183 million.

In addition, Buriss will get health insurance coverage, and her stock options and restricted stock units will continue to vest. Burris is the former CFO at Dendreon and Corixa, two of Seattle’s better known biotech companies.

Furthermore, if Burris completes the consultancy work and releases claims, she will receive a lump sum payment of $410,000, which the company said is “consistent with the severance payment in her prior employment contract.

Scott Cormack

“Additionally, the Company will accelerate the vesting of Ms. Burris’s outstanding stock options and restricted stock units that would have vested over a 12-month period had she continued to provide services to the company,” the company wrote. “If the consultancy ends within three months before or within 12 months after a change of control of the Company, all of Ms. Burris’s outstanding stock options and restricted stock units will immediately vest.”

As part of the transition, Cormack has been appointed as principal financial officer, secretary and treasurer. Susan Wyrick has been been principal accounting officer. She had previously served as senior director of finance.

Founded in 2000, OncoGenex is developing drugs for the treatment of prostate cancer. The company lost $17 million during the first nine months of last year on revenue of $10.3 million. More on the terms of the agreement between OncoGenex and Burris in this SEC filing.

  • guest

    “After the relationship was disclosed to the board, the company determined that Burris should hand over her executive duties to others in the company.”
    Because she showed worse judgment that her boss? Man, talk about double standard.

    • Bill

      No, because the Board had to choose one and chose the CEO, which is logical particularly given that he co-founded the company and presumably has deep knowledge of the technology and market.

      Michelle Burris is a great CFO and operations person, but ultimately is more replaceable than the CEO. There is no indication of anything improper and looks like they were scrupulously up front with the Board. You can’t have a CEO and CFO of a small public company in a relationship. It just doesn’t work for anyone involved.

      • guest

        There is no indication of anything improper? You mean besides the CEO sleeping with an employee who reports to him?

        • Guest

          Donate her money back to the company for the Patients
          Michelle G. Burris
          Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer, Executive Vice President of Operations, Treasurer and Secretary, OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals, Inc.AgeTotal Calculated Compensation

          46$878,363
          As of Fiscal Year 2011

      • Janet

        Have you actually worked directly with Michelle? I don’t think her team would agree with you that she is a great Operational person….. her reputation is a train wreck…. and this is the icing on the cake from a shareholder point of view….. and single – give me a break

    • Janet

      Yes great role models…… they should donate the money back to the patients and really do something right….

  • Janet

    I’m sorry how professional is this – That the Shareholders are paying for this again!!! The money should be going to the patients and back to the shareholders not rewarding for this performance and needless to say the people that it has affected on their teams and their previous families…. single really….