Representative Earl Blumenauer's wife Margaret D. Kirkpatrick purchased shares of a major biopharma firm Amgen (AMGN:US) back in 2022 prior to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allocating substantial funds to acquire the company's radiation sickness drug, Nplate. This investment proved to be lucrative, as Amgen's stock value then surged.
The congressman holds a significant role as a member of the Health Subcommittee for the Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the administration of the Department of Health and Human Services and other related programs.
On September 26, Kirkpatrick disclosed her acquisition of up to $15,000 worth of AMGN shares, just two days prior to the HHS announcement of a $290 million purchase of Nplate. This development led to Amgen's stock surging by over 24%.
The HHS justified its procurement of Nplate as a precautionary measure in response to potential national security threats, particularly in light of concerns about the Russia and Ukraine conflict. Several watchdog organizations raised questions regarding the suspicious timing of the stock trade.
Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, government affairs manager for the Project on Government Oversight emphasized the issue of congressional stock trading, noting that the members of Congress have access to non-public information and can influence the stock market in ways that the general public cannot. He further underscored the negative impact on public trust and the possible violation of securities law.
Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, echoed similar concerns, emphasizing that members of Congress may have access to confidential information that can influence stock values. Holman suggested that such appearances alone pose political liabilities, advocating for a ban on congressional stock trading.
Blumenauer has been a frequent stock trader, disclosing numerous trades executed by Kirkpatrick, amounting to over $5 million in the past three years. The recent Amgen trade was made within Kirkpatrick's "retirement portfolio."
The lawmaker's office clarified that a stock purchase of Raytheon (RTX:US) was triggered accidentally on the same day Russia invaded Ukraine and was promptly sold at a loss upon realization. The office attributed the purchase to a miscommunication and emphasized Blumenauer's directive to avoid holding any individual stock.
Blumenauer was also among the 97 members of Congress mentioned in a New York Times report who traded stocks while sitting on committees overseeing relevant companies. Kirkpatrick engaged in bond and stock trading involving multiple healthcare companies, such as UnitedHealth (UNH:US) and CVS Health Corp (CVS:US), despite Blumenauer's jurisdiction over Medicare through his role in the Ways and Means Committee.