Following reports of privileged and discounted stock trading by Rep. Tom Price (GA-06), good government groups joined together Tuesday urging the Senate to delay any vote on Mr. Price’s nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). In a letter to Sens. Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, advocates urged Senate leadership to delay voting on Mr. Price’s nomination until the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has had the opportunity to fully investigate potential violations of the law.
In addition to Common Cause, signers include Center for Media and Democracy, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), CREDO, Democracy 21, Democracy Matters, End Citizens United, Every Voice, Free Speech for People, Money Out Voters In, Public Citizen, Represent.Us, the Rootstrikers Project at Demand Progress, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).
As a public interest advocacy group, Common Cause supported the 2012 passage of the STOCK Act, legislation which strengthened prohibitions against Members of Congress engaging in insider trading. Lawmakers are now requesting that the SEC investigate Mr. Price’s discounted investments in Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd.
Mr. Price received stocks at a 12% discounted rate over other investors following a tip from a fellow member of Congress that Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd. was holding a private placement offering. Mr. Price was one of fewer than 20 U.S. investors invited to participate in the offering, through which he purchased 400,613 shares at a discounted rate, making an immediate profit in the tens of thousands of dollars.
In addition to specifying that it is against the law for Members of Congress to trade on non-public information gleaned through the course of official business, the STOCK Act also creates an important system of real-time transparency of stock trading activity by members and staff. Under the law, lawmakers and congressional candidates, the president and vice president, members of the cabinet and high-ranking congressional and executive branch staff are required to file personal financial disclosure statements each year which are published online.