WASHINGTON ― Democratic senators are asking for more documents from Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Health & Human Services, regarding his stock trades ahead of another hearing this Tuesday.
A letter to Price from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, asks for the congressman to hand over the brokerage agreements for two Morgan Stanley accounts and for any other unstated accounts no later than noon on Monday.
Price has defended his practice of trading health care stocks while introducing legislation to benefit the companies he purchased shares in by stating that his trades were directed by his Morgan Stanley broker and not him. This defense neglected to mention that Price made other trades from another account that were personally directed by him.
This was revealed when Murray asked Price in committee about the stock he purchased through a private placement in the Australian biotechnology firm Innate Immunotherapeutics after hearing about the company from Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), a company board member. Price said that he personally directed his broker to make the purchase through a different account.
Now, Murray and Wyden, whose committee will hold a hearing on Price’s nomination on Tuesday, are asking Price to reveal the actual agreements for his two Morgan Stanley brokerage accounts and any other accounts holding stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics or other health care stocks. The accounts the senators are asking for relevant documentation on are labeled “Morgan Stanley #1” and “Morgan Stanley #2” in Price’s financial disclosure form.
Democrats have already called for a delay in Price’s hearings until an ethics investigation into his stock trading can be completed. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics asking it to conduct an investigation into Price’s actions.
The independent OCE, which Republicans tried to defang as their first action of this new Congress, investigates ethics complaints against House members, but cannot impose punishments. Its reports on investigations are sent to the House Ethics Committee, where members of Congress perform a final review and investigation. The House Ethics Committee rarely finds fault with lawmakers’ actions.
If Price received non-public information from Collins about the company before buying shares and participating in the limited private placement provided by Innate Immunotherapeutics, he could be found in violation of the 2012 STOCK Act, which bans insider trading in Congress.
Price has defended his actions on the Innate Immunotherapeutics trade by claiming that Collins simply told him about the stock and that he followed up with his own research before buying it. He has not said how he learned about the limited private placement or explained exactly what Collins said to him.
This is the second letter to Price from Democratic senators asking for more information regarding his stock trades. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) have called for a postponement of the hearings until Price can answer questions about his purchase of Innate Immunotherapeutics.
Price’s purchase of the Australian biotech stock was first reported by Kaiser Health News on Jan. 13. Price’s largest stock purchase was between $50,001 and $100,000 during the company’s private placement on Aug. 31, 2016.