Saturday, March 18, 2017

Was Preet Bharara About To Charge Tom Price With Stock Swindling When Trump Fired Him?


There was a lot of mystery and a lot of speculation around Trump and Sessions going back on their word and firing U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara this week. A lot of speculation. What was he investigating that spooked Trump enough to fire him after asking him to stay on his job? Silly people postulated that it was because Bharara is close with Schumer and that Trump and Schumer had a falling out. That's so stupid it isn't worth spending the time I just spent the time writing it. But yesterday Robert Faturechi, writing for ProPublica, seems to have gotten to the bottom of the mess. And it was something that isn't all that surprising-- the well known crooked dealings of the Trump Regime's HHS Secretary, Tom Price.

The Price scandal is hardly new. The Senate questioned him-- ineffectively about it-- and there was a lot of press as well. The NY Times' David Leonhardt dubbed him Dr. Personal Enrichment, while ripping apart his nomination. He pointed out that statistics and surveys show that the most highly paid sector of medical doctors, orthopedists-- like Price-- "suffer from a professional culture that does not live up to medicine’s highest ideals. Too many orthopedists are rich and think it’s an injustice that they’re not richer. This culture helped shape Dr. Tom Price, the orthopedic surgeon and Georgia congressman who is Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services." Anyone who's followed Price's career well knows it's been entirely based on rapaciousness and unadulterated greed and selfishness. As rich as Price is-- over $10 million rich-- "he hasn’t been content to make money in the standard ways. He has also pushed, and crossed, ethical boundaries. Again and again, Price has mingled his power as a congressman with his desire to make money."
Last March, Price announced his opposition to a sensible Medicare proposal to limit the money doctors could make from drugs they prescribe their patients. The proposal was meant to reduce doctors’ financial incentives to prescribe expensive drugs. (And, yes, if you’re bothered that your doctor has any stake in choosing one drug over another, you should be.)

One week after Price came out against the proposal, he bought stocks in six pharmaceutical companies that would benefit from its defeat, as Time Magazine reported. At the time, those same companies were lobbying Congress to block the change. They succeeded.

It’s a pattern, too. Price has put the interests of drug companies above those of taxpayers and patients-- and invested in those drug companies on the side.

Last year, he also bought shares in Zimmer Biomet, a maker of hip and knee implants. Six days later, according to CNN, he introduced a bill that would that have directly helped Zimmer.

In his defense, a spokesman for Price has said that his broker bought the Zimmer stock and Price didn’t find out until later. That’s certainly possible, but still not acceptable. Members of Congress bear responsibility for their personal stock transactions, period.

A third episode may be the worst. Price accepted a special offer from an Australian drug company to buy discounted shares, as the Wall Street Journal and Kaiser Health News reported.

He told the Senate that the offer was open to all investors, although fewer than 20 Americans actually received an invitation to buy at the discounted price. The stock has since jumped in value, and Price underreported the worth of his investment in his nomination filings. It was a “clerical error,” he says.

Even without any larger context, his actions are disqualifying. He’s repeatedly placed personal enrichment above the credibility of Congress. The behavior is substantially worse than giving money to an illegal immigrant (which defeated a George W. Bush nominee) or failing to pay nanny taxes (which scuttled a Bill Clinton nominee).

But of course there is a larger context. Price has devoted much of his political career opposing expansion of health insurance. His preferred replacement of Obamacare would reduce health care benefits for sicker, poorer and older Americans.

His views have a long history within the medical profession. For decades, doctors used their political clout to help block universal health insurance. They offered many rationales, but money was the main reason. Many doctors feared that a less laissez-faire health care system would reduce their pay.

It’s to the great credit of today’s doctors that they have moved their lobbying groups away from that position and helped extend insurance to some 20 million people. They understand that some principles matter more than a paycheck.

Or at least many of them do.
Yes, some-- but not ole Tom Price. And Bharara had launched an investigation in Price's shady stock transactions. Bharara was following up on a law that prohibits members of Congress using nonpublic information for personal profit. A ProPublica source says that "the investigation of Price’s trades was underway when Trump fired Bharara.
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.

Innate Immunotherapeutics’ CEO Simon Wilkinson told ProPublica that he and his company have not had any contact with American law enforcement agencies and have no knowledge of authorities looking at Price’s stock trades.

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.

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.

Louise Slaughter, a Democratic congress member from New York who sponsored the STOCK Act, wrote in January to the SEC asking that the agency investigate Price’s stock trades. “The fact that these trades were made and in many cases timed to achieve significant earnings or avoid losses would lead a reasonable person to question whether the transactions were triggered by insider knowledge,” she wrote.

What federal authorities are looking at, including whether they are examining any of those transactions, is not known.

Along with the Price matter, Bharara’s former office is investigating allegations relating to Fox News, and has been urged by watchdog groups to look into payments Trump has received from foreign governments through his Manhattan-based business. Bharara’s former deputy, Joon Kim, is now in charge of the office, but Trump is expected to nominate his replacement within weeks.

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At 8:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Duh! And Martha Stewart did hard time over orders of magnitude less. Doesn't have a penis, sadly. Not a corrupt politician either.

Let that be a lesson to you Martha.

At 12:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This would be dynamite if the Democrats weren't equally as corrupt.


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