Report: Bharara Was Investigating HHS Secretary Tom Price

ProPublica, the multiple Pulitzer prize winning non-profit news organization that does amazing work, reports that former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was investigating Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price when he was fired by Trump. The investigation focused on the shady stock deals he made in Congress.

Source: on a CC3.0 Creative Commons license.
Source: on a CC3.0 Creative Commons license.

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was removed from his post by the Trump administration last week, was overseeing an investigation into stock trades made by the president’s health secretary, according to a person familiar with the office.

Tom Price, head of the Department of Health and Human Services, came under scrutiny during his confirmation hearings for investments he made while serving in Congress. The Georgia lawmaker traded hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of shares in health-related companies, even as he voted on and sponsored legislation affecting the industry…

In December, the Wall Street Journal reported that Price traded more than $300,000 worth of shares in health companies over a recent four-year period, while taking actions that could have affected those companies. Price, an orthopedic surgeon, chaired the powerful House Budget Committee and sat on the Ways and Means Committee’s health panel.

In one case, Price was one of just a handful of American investors allowed to buy discounted stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics — a tiny Australian company working on an experimental multiple sclerosis drug. The company hoped to be granted “investigational new drug” status from the Food and Drug Administration, a designation that expedites the approval process.

Members of congress often try to apply pressure on the FDA. As ProPublica has reported, Price’s office has taken up the causes of health care companies, and in one case urged a government agency to remove a damaging drug study on behalf of a pharmaceutical company whose CEO donated to Price’s campaign…

Another transaction that drew scrutiny was a 2016 purchase of between $1,001 and $15,000 in shares of medical device manufacturer Zimmer Biomet. CNN reported that days after Price bought the stock, he introduced legislation to delay a regulation that would have hurt Zimmer Biomet.

Price has said that trade was made without his knowledge by his broker.

After hearing from a company whose CEO was a campaign contributor, a congressional aide to Donald Trump’s HHS nominee repeatedly pushed a federal health agency to remove a critical drug study from its website. Read the story.

In a third case, reported by Time magazine, Price invested thousands of dollars in six pharmaceutical companies before leading a legislative and public relations effort that eventually killed proposed regulations that would have harmed those companies.

But the problem here goes beyond merely taking advantage of insider knowledge. The allegation is that more than once he actually intervened on behalf of a company he had invested in, sometimes in deals that most people did not have access to, to make sure something didn’t happen that would have hurt the value of the stock he had recently bought. They had previously published the full story on what happened with that critical drug study, as he and his aides pressured the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to remove a study that cast doubt on the effectiveness of a drug on behalf of that company’s CEO.

If this is true and Bharara really was investigating these things, that’s a really, really big deal. That’s a clear case of corruption, especially since Trump had specifically asked him to stay on as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, an office that includes Wall Street and thus investigates a lot of stock scams and insider trading charges. At this point, no one will confirm that there was such an investigation. There needs to be an investigation to find out, but with Sessions in charge of the DOJ and Republicans in control of Congress, that seems unlikely.

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