Allegations about Sec. Tom Price’s insider trading continue to grow more serious, with the U.S. Attorney who was investigating this unethical (and perhaps illegal) behavior abruptly being fired last week. Price, Georgia’s own U.S. Representative turned Health and Human Services Secretary, has been embroiled in this scandal since his nomination over concerns that he benefited from stock trades he made during his time in Congress.
This all began unfolding when The Wall Street Journal reported last December that Price “traded more than $300,000 in shares of health-related companies over the past four years while sponsoring and advocating legislation that potentially could affect those companies’ stocks.”
There are special laws governing how members of Congress can engage in stock market trading, given that they often have access to the fate of upcoming legislation that may impact the profitability of certain companies or industries. Insider trading is always a concern because our Congress is made up of the ultra-wealthy, and not-at-all representative of the American population. But this is a larger conversation than the issue at hand.
So far what is known about Price’s insider trading — from the last two years alone — is pretty damning. As respected investigative journalist Joe Nocera wrote, “Tom Price’s health-care stock trades flunk the smell test.”
“Are these all ‘coincidences?’ Even if the answer is ‘yes,’ the fact that Price has been so cavalier about owning health-care stocks while taking action that can move these stocks makes it nearly impossible to accept his claims of innocence at face value.”
In 2015, Price was one of two sitting Congressman to be offered a sweetheart investment deal — in the form of discounted stock — from a small, Australian biotech firm, Innate Immunotherapeutics, which was specifically trying break into the American pharmaceuticals market. Price’s investments were good ones, too, as he’s realized a 400 percent paper gain in that stock, and could see as much as one million dollars in returns.
This time last year, Price invested in a medical device manufacturer only days before introducing legislation that would delay un-profitable rules from going into place. As CNN reports, Zimmer Biomet was one of two companies that would have seen their bottom line substantially and negatively impacted by a new regulation the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services plans to introduce. Price has claimed his broker made that deal and he had absolutely no knowledge of it.
During the summer of 2016, Price’s office lobbied a federal agency to remove an unfavorable study of a struggling drug that treats heart failure. There are concerns that his office’s interest in the matter might stem from the CEO of Arbor Pharmaceuticals, LLC of Atlanta, the company that invested in rights to the drug, maxing out his donations to Price’ campaign.
TIME reports that during 2016:
“Within weeks of making investments worth between $1,000 and $15,000 in Eli Lilly, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Amgen, McKesson, Biogen and Pfizer according to Congressional disclosure forms, Rep. Tom Price co-sponsored legislation and took part in a public effort that ultimately killed proposed regulatory changes that would have likely hurt those companies’ bottom lines.”
The Trump transition team had defended Price, saying he has “complied fully with all applicable laws and ethics rules governing his personal finances.”
How very comforting.