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Fired US Attorney was probing HHS chief Price

March 20, 2017

Fired former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was investigating stock trades made by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, according to one report.

ProPublica reported on Friday that Bharara, who was fired by the Trump administration last weekend, was overseeing an investigation into the former Georgia lawmaker’s investment activity. Price came under scrutiny during his confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate over his trades of hundreds of thousands of dollars in shares of healthcare companies while he was in Congress.

A person familiar with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York told ProPublica that an investigation into Price’s trades was underway when Bharara was fired.

A March 12 tweet from Bharara fueled speculation further.

“By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like,” he wrote.

The Moreland Commission was launched in 2013 by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to investigate state government corruption. Cuomo disbanded the commission in 2014 as his office came into its focus, after which time Bharara said he would continue the commission’s work.

The Wall Street Journal reported in December that Price, 62, traded more than $300,000 in health-related companies over a four-year period while sponsoring and advocating legislation that could potentially affect those companies’ stocks. His trades included Amgen (AMGN) , Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) , Eli Lilly (LLY) , Pfizer (PFE) and Aetna (AET) .

 

He also made well-timed trades of Australian biotech company Innate Immuno, the share price of which doubled after his investment. Representative Chris Collins, a New York Republican who supported Trump and sits on the company’s board, made a similarly well-timed investment.

Senate Democrats in January called for the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Price’s trading activities. The violation in question is of the STOCK Act, a 2012 law designed to combat insider trading.

“We don’t know if he broke the law, but there are certainly enough serious questions to warrant a serious investigation before any hearing is held on Congressman Price to become Secretary of HHS,” Schumer said at a press conference at the time. “Bottom line, Congressman Price had the influence and was actively involved in pushing healthcare policies while simultaneously making dozens of trades in companies that would be impacted by those policies. He did this repeatedly and in such large numbers, he’s likely to have made tens of thousands of dollars on one of these trades alone.”

At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Price defended his activities.

“Everything that I did was ethical, above board, legal and transparent,” he said. “The reason that you know about these things is because we have made that information available in real time.”

Spokespeople for for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan and the U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.

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