On Wednesday morning, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington subjected Health and Human Services nominee Rep. Tom Price to a tough line of questioning on his trading of health stocks while serving on the health subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee. Specifically, Murray inquired about Price’s purchase of stocks in Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotech firm, after Price had, by his own admission, received information from Rep. Chris Collins, who sits on the firm’s board:
Murray: Well, Congressman Chris Collins who sits on President-elect Trump’s transition team, is both an investor and a board member of the company. He was reportedly overheard just last week off the House floor bragging about how he made people millionaires from a stock tip. In our meeting, you informed me you made the purchases based on conversations with representative Collins. Is that correct?
Price: No. What I …
Murray: That is what you said to me in my office.
Price: What I believe I said to you is I learned of the company from Congressman Collins.
Murray: What I recall our conversation was that you had a conversation with Collins and then decided to purchase the stock.
Price: That’s not correct.
Murray: Well, that is what I remember hearing you say in my office. In that conversation, did Rep. Collins tell you anything that could be considered, quote, a stock tip? Yes or no?
Price: I don’t believe so, no.
Murray: Well, if you’re telling me he gave you information about a company, you’re offered shares in the company at prices not available to the public, you bought those shares, is that not a stock tip?
Price: That’s not what happened. What happened was he mentioned—he talked about the company and the work that they were doing in trying to solve the challenge of progressive secondary multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease—
Murray: I’m well aware …
Price: And felt it had some significant merit and promise and purchased the initial shares on the stock exchange …
Murray also slammed Price for investing in Innate Immunotherapeutics while working on the 21st Century Cures Act, which contains provisions that could benefit the company. Price has faced criticism for this and other trades made while serving on the committee that could conflict with his position at Health and Human Services should he be confirmed. According to Stat, Price currently holds stock in more than 40 companies that could be seen as conflicts, including Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb.