Bill “the kitten vivisector” Frist and his recent unloading of stock in the family business is about more than just the mythical blind trust.
Pump and Dump Politics:
According to Thompson Financial analyst Mark LoPresti, quoted in several of the stories, the key piece of inside information that Frist and the other insiders had that others didn’t was this:
Uninsured patient admissions were rising faster than those of insured patients
Let’s consider why it might generally be considered a conflict of interest for Frist to own so much HCA stock. The main concern would be that Frist might be in a position to use his public power to improve the financial condition of such hospitals; for example, he could push for some kind of increased coverage for the uninsured or even universal health care. He might have a public motive for doing so, but he might also have a private motive, since it would hugely benefit a hospital chain like HCA. That’s the reason for putting all his stock in a blind trust, so that he won’t know, and we know that he won’t know, whether he would benefit privately.
But when the uninsured ratio goes up, and Frist actually knows that this will affect his own portfolio, paradoxically his reaction isn’t what the normal conflict-of-interest analysis would assume. Rather than use his official power to reduce the number of uninsured, he takes a private action, and just dumps the stock. And not just any stock, this is his patrimony he’s selling out. It’s the stock of his own family’s company. But he washes his hands of it. Leaves it to some bigger sucker.
And that, to me, is telling, and it’s about more than Frist’s despicable character. Because it goes to the great paradox of what is currently called “conservatism.”
In other words, he might have taken some steps to address the shortfall for uninsured patients, against the fiduciary interests of his family and himself: hence the blind trust. But did he? No, he played the game like a crooked insider and unloaded his holdings, selling out his family and the citizens he has pledged to serve.
What a creep.