Pharma CEO Now Denies Price Was Offered Exclusive Deal On Stock

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January 31, 2017 11:15 a.m.

The CEO of an Australian pharmaceutical company is forcefully denying offering President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services a sweetheart stock deal.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) was one of fewer than 20 American investors in Innate Immunotherapeutics, Ltd. to have been offered discounted shares of the company.

But Simon Wilkinson, the company’s CEO and a quoted source for the Journal’s story, wrote to CNN Tuesday that it was “NOT factually correct” to say Price was one of fewer than 20 U.S. investors to have been offered discounted shares.

“All Australian and New Zealand shareholders (the company had about 2,400 shareholders at the time of whom 850 had actively supported share offerings over the previous 5 or more years) were ‘invited’ (offered) new shares at the same discount,” Wilkinson wrote to CNN. “Our ‘accredited’ US resident shareholders were also made aware of the offering. About 600 AU/NZ shareholders and about 20 US shareholders/investors took up the ‘invitation.'”

Price was one of six “friends and family” invited to buy shares alongside “about 10” investors who had previously purchased Innate Immuno stock in private placements, according to the Journal report. The report stated that the Journal had confirmed with both Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), Innate Immuno’s largest shareholder and the source of Price’s invitation to buy discounted stock, and Wilkinson that the deal had not been offered to all U.S. shareholders.

Collins accidentally replied-all in an email to Wilkinson that bashed the Journal story, allowing CNN reporters to view the message.

“Simon. Yellow journalism. Making the story fit a bias regardless of the facts. Distorted,” he wrote, as quoted by CNN. “In fact the offer was made available to every US shareholder who had ever participated in any share offering in the US. Interesting how he somehow distorted that.”

Collins wrote “many US shareholders” did not buy stock “because of the perceived risk,” according to CNN.

Shortly before a committee vote Tuesday on Price’s nomination, Senate Democrats announced that they would deny Republicans the necessary quorum to hold votes on both Price and Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s pick for treasury secretary.

We’re not going to this committee today because we want the committee to regroup, get the information, have these two nominees come back in front of the committee, clarify what they lied about,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told a scrum of reporters on Capitol Hill. “I would hope they’d apologize for that and then give us the information that we all need for our stats.”

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