HSE chief in line for large fees and share options from US firm

O’Brien joined female contraceptive maker before he announced he was leaving HSE

HSE director general Tony O’Brien is in line to receive substantial fees and share options this year from his role on the board of a publicly quoted US healthcare company that he joined in January.

Mr O'Brien (54), who announced last month he will leave the HSE in August, will receive fees totalling $65,000 (€54,000) a year from his work for San Diego-based Evofem Biosciences, a female contraceptive manufacturer, and share-buying options of $450,000 in his first three years.

Stock-market filings submitted by the Californian firm said Mr O’Brien joined the board in January 2018, two months before he announced publicly that he would be departing as director-general of the HSE when his contract expires in August.

The company referred to Mr O’Brien’s role leading the Irish national health service in a March 21st public statement to the stock market released in advance of its annual meeting next week.


As a non-executive director of the company Mr O’Brien will receive an “annual cash retainer” of $50,000 in addition to $10,000 a year from his role as chairman of the company’s compensation committee and $5,000 a year as a member of the company’s audit committee.

The HSE chief currently holds no shares in the company.

The company’s filing last month says, however, that he has the chance to buy into the company; he will be awarded options for 24,691 shares, which would be worth $181,725 based on Evofem’s share price last night on Wall Street’s Nasdaq technology-dominated stock exchange.

Extensive biography

The California firm lists Mr O'Brien's past roles as founding chief executive of the National Cancer Screening Service and director of CervicalCheck in an extensive biography in stock market statements, along with his past role as chief executive of the Irish Family Planning Association.

The main product made by Evofem, which is run by US businesswoman Saundra Pelletier, is Amphora, a new form of contraceptive gel.

Mr O'Brien joins Irish businessman Thomas Lynch on the board of the company. Mr Lynch, who is Evofem's chairman, is also non-executive chairman of Ireland East Hospital Group, the country's largest hospital group and the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.

It has been a lucrative role for Mr Lynch. The company said he received $700,000 from Evofem in 2017, a figure that includes $290,000 in consulting fees and a $350,000 bonus.

Evofem’s annual meeting, which will be attended by board members, will take place next Tuesday at the San Diego Marriott Del Mar in southern California.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times