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Former Senate Republican leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, is keeping low key about his vindication in two federal probes over the timing of his 2005 sales of all his family’s stock in HCA Inc.
When the 19-month-long probes ended with no charges, Frist simply issued a brief written statement to the news media Friday saying he was “pleased” that the findings echoed what “I’ve said throughout this matter … (that) I acted properly.”
Frist disclosed that he had been notified by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York that they concluded their inquiries and are taking no action. Neither office disputed his report.
The offices apparently were looking into published reports of whether Frist had insider information before directing his qualified blind trust in June 2005 to sell any of his family’s remaining shares of stock in HCA, a company founded in the 1960s by his father and brother.
The stock peaked at $58.22 June 22 and dropped 14.2 percent to $49.90 on July 13, the day that HCA released an estimate of quarterly earnings.
The value of stock sold was not disclosed. Frist’s trust in 2004 was valued at $7 million to $35 million, according to public records, but its stock holdings were not listed.
Matt Lehigh, a Frist spokesman, said the former senator will not comment beyond his written statement.
Frist had maintained all along that he asked his trust to sell any remaining stock to avoid “continuing concerns” that his HCA holdings might have the appearance of a conflict of interest in some of his Senate work.
However, he had been in the Senate nearly 11 years before deciding to sell any remaining HCA stock. There was speculation at the time that the stock sales were part of Frist’s plan to prepare to run for president, but he decided later against a bid.
Neither the SEC nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office would deny or confirm Frist’s report, stating their practice of not commenting on investigations. The initial probes were confirmed by HCA and Frist’s office.
Frist had met with federal officials to address the stock sales as recently as January 2007, according to a source familiar with the meeting.
(E-mail Richard Powelson at powelsonr(at)shns.com)