Elizabeth Warren hammered HHS nominee Tom Price for his unethical purchase of stocks. In any other year, this would be disqualifying. But will it?
Elizabeth Warren on fire
After listening to Price's responses, it was immediately evident that Elizabeth Warren was doing her diligence. The man is smooth, but she was able to make him a bit frazzled.
"Zimmer-Biomet, they're one of the world's leading manufacturers of hips and knees," said Warren. "And they make more money if they can charge higher prices and sell more of their products the company knows this, and so do the stock analyst. So on March 17th, 2016, you purchase stock in Zimmer-Biomet exactly six days after you bought the stock on March 23rd, 2016. You introduced a bill in the House called the Hip Act that would require HHS Secretary to suspend regulations affecting the payment for hip and knee replacements. Is that correct.?"
"I think the BPCI program that to which I think you referred," replied Price. "I'm a strong supporter of because it keeps the discontinued ... "
"I am not asking about why you supported it," Warren interrupted. "I am just asking. Did you buy the stock and then did you introduce a bill that would be helpful to the company she just bought stock in."
"The the stock was bought," Price said. "by, directed by a broker who is a making those decisions. "I wasn't making those decisions."
"Ok so you said you weren't making those decisions," Warren said. "Let me just make sure that I understand. These are your stock trades that they are listed under your name right?
"They're made on my behalf yeah," Price replied.
Warren continued asking if the stocks were a part of a mutual fund, index fund, or some other less direct purchase. Price noted it was a straight out stock buy.
"So let's just be clear," Warren said. "This is not just a stockbroker someone you pay to handle the paperwork. This is someone who buys the stock at your direction. This is someone who buys and sells the stock you want them to buy and sell."
Price denied that was the case. Warren implied it is nothing but a "wink wink nod nod."
"When you found out that your broker had made this trade without your knowledge, did you reprimand her?" Warren asked.
Price replied that he complied with the law.
"Your periodic transaction report notes that you were notified of this trade on April 4th, 2016," Warren said. "Did you take additional actions after that date to advance your plan to help the company that you now own stock in?"
"I'm offended by the insinuation Senators," Price interjected.
"Well let me just read what you did," Warren replied. "You may be offended but here's what you did. Congressional records show that after you were personally notified of this trade, which you said you didn't know about it in advance, that you added 23 out of your bills 24 co-sponsors that also after you were notified of the stock transaction you sent a letter to CMS calling on them to cease all current and future plan mandatory initiatives under the Center for Medicare and Medicaid innovation. And just so there was no misunderstanding about who you were trying to help you specifically mentioned hip and knee replacement."
Sealed and delivered. Price traded on inside information he would create.