At least two Democratic Senators charged with “looking into” HHS nominee Rep. Tom Price’s alleged conflicts of interest—his holdings in several publicly traded pharmaceutical and medical device corporations—also hold stock in the same or similar companies, Heat Street found.
Sen. Chuck Schumer has, in recent days, escalated his attacks on the U.S. Rep who was selected by President-elect Donald Trump to lead Health and Human Services and, likely, to spearhead the Affordable Care Act’s repeal or replacement.
Schumer claimed, in a press conference, that a full-scale Congressional investigation into Price’s financial holdings was warranted, as Price publicly traded stocks in a number of healthcare companies including Aetna, Amgen, athenaHealth, Eli Lilly and Pfizer, while also sponsoring healthcare-related bills in the House of Representatives.
Congressmen are not prohibited from owning stock, but an ethical gray area arises when legislators use their insider knowledge or access to legislation to assist in making trades. There haven’t been many insider trading convictions, but Senators and Reps do have a suspiciously high rate of return on their market investments.
They do have to disclose their holdings, however. And Price would have to sell his stock if he’s confirmed as HHS Secretary, or recuse himself from most major decisions.
But when Price goes before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension(or HELP) and Finance Committees for questioning ahead of his vote, he’ll face at least three Democratic Senators, charged with rooting out Price’s insidery habits, who have similar habits of their own.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of the HELP Committee, along with his wife, holds thousands of dollars worth of stock in healthcare companies, some of which are the same companies Price stands accused of benefiting.
Sen. Tom Carper of the Finance Committee also holds stock in both Merck and Amgen. His wife has holdings in Medtronic Inc., PDL BioPharma Inc, Universal Health Realty Income Trust, Omega Healthcare Investors, Medical Properties Trust, and Johnson & Johnson.
Sen. Mark Warner, who has a blind trust, owns hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock in companies like Halozyme Therapeutics Inc. (over $500k), Intrexon Corp. (over $250k), Ziopharm Oncology Inc. (over $250k).
It’s worth noting that while these three legislators may not be at the helm of the Health and Human Services department, or authoring bills that directly benefit the companies whose stock they own, they, like Price, could have benefited greatly from their positions. Senators regularly vote on bills that impact the healthcare industry.
If Price is held to a standard that assumes he used insider knowledge and thus violated ethics provisions, a Congressional investigation may be warranted into several other—if not many other—members of the Senate, as well.
At the head of HHS, Price would have to sell his shares or risk having to recuse himself from any major decision that could benefit these companies.