As President Trump starts to use his wartime powers to ramp up production of equipment needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic, some U.S. firms are starting to feel his wrath. The latest is applied sciences conglomerate 3M (NYSE:MMM).
In a tweet, Trump announced he had invoked the Defense Production Act against 3M. The move will force 3M to sell its N95 respirator masks to the federal government in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump said 3M will pay a “big price” but didn’t detail the company’s specific failings:
During a Coronavirus Taskforce briefing, Trump claimed that 3M was selling N95 masks to other countries while the U.S. experienced a shortage.
Trump wasn’t the lone voice criticizing 3M. On Tucker Carlson Tonight, Florida’s Director of Emergency Management Jared Moskowitz complained that he had failed to secure protective masks from 3M distributors even after offering to pay 10-20 times higher than normal:
For the last several weeks, we have had a boiler room chasing down 3M authorized distributors … brokers representing that they sell the N95 masks, only get to warehouses that are completely empty.
Besides facing the wrath of federal and state governments, 3M has also invited the ire of the private sector.
Late last month, billionaire business mogul Mark Cuban criticized 3M for failing to act on price gouging. While 3M claims its prices for protective equipment hasn’t changed following the coronavirus pandemic, its network of resellers seem to be taking advantage of the situation .
Cuban, who has been trying to purchase N95 respirators to donate to medical personnel, termed the behavior “wrong” and “criminal”:
3M lists all its distributors online, the ones buying and selling these things, and these distributors are making as much money as they possibly can. It’s wrong, it’s criminal.
Other reports suggest that Trump evoked the wartime powers act after 3M declined to accede to White House demands.
Per the Financial Times, the Trump administration was unable to force 3M to export respirators from its Singapore hub to the U.S.
According to the publication, White House officials wanted 3M to reroute around 10 million N95 respirator masks manufactured in Singapore to the U.S. 3M resisted the demands on “legal and humanitarian grounds.”
Nevertheless, the conglomerate committed to exporting 10 million of the gold-standard respirator masks from its Chinese plant to the U.S.
Earlier this week, 3M announced it would increase its monthly production of N95 masks in the U.S. by 40% in the next two months. This would see an increase from 35 million units to 50 million.
Currently, demand for the masks far exceeds supply. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated last month that healthcare workers on the front lines of fighting the coronavirus pandemic would require 300 million N95 respirator masks monthly.
To get around the severe shortage, 3M has been forced to work with sterilization firms to recycle existing masks.