As Sesen investors allege a 'bribe' was offered to support planned Carisma merger, company says they're 'opportunists'

A weeks-long spat between Sesen Bio and an investor group is boiling over after the latter alleged that the company offered "a proposed bribe" to support a planned merger with Carisma Therapeutics. 

Bradley Radoff and Michael Torok, leaders of the renegade group of investors, said Wednesday that advisors to Sesen offered them advisory roles and cash reimbursement for expenses in exchange for their support. The investment group says that to learn how much they were being offered in exchange for their votes, they were asked to sign confidentiality agreements.

"We contend the offer made to us was akin to a proposed bribe. In addition to being offended by the insinuation that we would sell out our fellow stockholders, the Investor Group is alarmed by your apparent willingness to engage in such highly questionable conduct," Radoff and Torok wrote in a letter. 

The company clapped back Thursday saying that Radoff and Torok were the first to express interest in an advisory role and that the investment group “repeatedly asked for reimbursement of fees.” Sesen contends that its offer to the group was made as part of a “settlement agreement.” 

The tense back-and-forth has persisted for weeks, spawning from Sesen’s planned merger with Carisma Therapeutics, which was first announced in late September 2022. The issues purported by the investors center on a belief that not enough money is trickling down to the shareholders and that ultimately, Sesen’s leadership is ill-equipped to lead. 

In Sesen’s response to the latest claims, the company called the investor group “opportunists” who built their 8.4% stake only once the merger was announced. While the group insists there's another option for Sesen if the merger were to fall through, the company said that the outcome would be a court-ordered dissolution and liquidation of assets. 

The merger was a last-ditch effort by Sesen to stave off dissolution after an extremely difficult year, capped off by the decision to end work on a phase 3 trial for the bladder cancer med vinicium. Sesen said in July 2022 that the move was made to save cash while it looked for a corporate life raft. 

But the trouble for Sesen started months earlier after a STAT News investigation found more than 2,000 violations of the trial’s protocol. The unearthed details cratered the company’s share value and it’s been wallowing ever since.

If Sesen ultimately fuses with Carisma, the joint company will trade under Carisma’s name and work to advance the latter’s macrophage treatments for cancer. As of the end of September 2022, Sesen reported having nearly $185 million in cash and securities.