Last week saw the removal of former US Attorney-Preet Bharara from office by the President’s administration. A source close to the office, says this happened when Preet was leading a stock trade investigation against Trump’s health secretary.
Tom Price’s (Head of the Department of Health and Human Services) investments in the stock trades when he was in Congress came into question in the course of his confirmation hearing. Price invested in shares of various health companies spending thousands of dollars while at the same time he sponsored and voted on legislations which might have had impacts on the industry. Price reiterates that during that period, his trades were in line with the law and transparent. Accusations from the Democrats suggested that he used his office for personal gains. Citing concerns about Prices’ conduct, one of the lawmakers called for a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the matter saying that Price might have violated the 2012 Stock Act commissioned by President Obama.
With Trump’s entrance into the Oval Office, a total of 46 US attorneys were requested to resign from their posts with Bharara being one of them. Replacing these officials with new ones is common for any new administration. After Trump’s meet-up with Bharara at the Trump Tower after the elections had concluded, the firing came as a shock to many as Bharara had reported after the meeting that Trump had asked him to stay in his docket of which he agreed to. The prosecutor was instead fired after he refused to submit a resignation letter to Trump’s administration. Trump has kept silent on the matter with the prosecutor through his Twitter account revealing that his firing might be as a result of political backlash.
Preet tweeted during the weekend that he didn’t resign. Instead, he was fired. In a second tweet, he said he now has a rough idea as to how the Moreland Commission felt like. The Moreland Commission was tasked by Andrew Cuomo (New York Governor) in 2013 to carry out investigations into the state government alleged corruption which was after that shortly dissolved by the governor’s office after the investigation started moving towards his office direction. Bharara continued with the investigation which saw him convict and charge several lawmakers including Cuomo associates.
The Southern District of New York US Attorney’s office refused to comment on the matter after Bharara directed all the questions from ProPublica to the office. The Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services also reserved their comments. Questions pertaining to the knowledge of Price’s investigation by Trump’s cabinet or Trump himself were also not addressed by the White House spokesman.
Wall Street Journal in December reported that Price recently did trades worth more than $300,000 in shares over a four-year period mostly in health companies and at the same time embarked on actions that would have different impacts on the companies. Price was one of the committee members of the Way and Means Committee health panel and also the chair of the House Budget Committee.
In 2013 when Innate Immunotherapeutics stocks were available for purchase at discounted prices, Price was one of the few investors that were allowed to buy the stock. Being an Australian firm that was experimenting on various sclerosis drugs, they hoped to get approval by the Food and Drug Administration labeling their experiment as an “investigational new drug” which would see them skip the approval process. Applying pressure on the FDA is a common tactic used by the Congress members. As reported by ProPublica before, Price’s office has been involved in many cases revolving around health care companies wherein one of the cases he asked a government agency doing a detrimental drug study on a pharmaceutical company to remove it. The CEO of the pharmaceutical firm was one of Price’s campaign donors.
Simon Wilkinson, the CEO of Innate Immunotherapeutics reported that his company had no knowledge of Price’s investigation in regards to the stock trades he made. Another case that brought Price under scrutiny was his shares purchase of Zimmer Biomet’s medical device that was worth between $1,001 to $15,000. Shortly after his shares purchase, CNN reports that Price formed a legislation which aimed at delaying a regulation that would negatively impact Zimmer Biomet.
Price said his broker made the trade in question without him being aware of it. Time Magazine in a third case also reports that Price made share investments in six pharmaceutical firms and later on led public relations and legislative efforts that tempered with regulations that worked against the six companies.
The direction that the federal authorities are taking in regards to the investigation has not been established yet. Other than the Price issue, the US attorney’s office formerly headed by Preet, is also investigating Fox News allegations concerning payments that Trump received via his business in Manhattan by various foreign governments. Joon Kim, Preet’s former deputy, is heading the office temporarily until Trump selects a candidate for the office.
Source: Huffington Post