Georgia lawmakers trade stocks to cash in on COVID-19 pandemic – WSB-TV Channel 2
ATLANTA — Americans get the COVID-19 vaccine for free, but it’s not really free because the federal government uses our tax dollars to pay for the shots.
Sophia Choi, Channel 2 investigative reporter wanted to know how much of your money the government is spending and who is making money from the pandemic.
Channel 2 Action News scoured months of financial records looking for who made money from stock trades during the pandemic and found several Georgia lawmakers. Everything is legal.
But some question whether it’s ethical, especially as the government is spending billions of dollars trying to stop the spread of the virus.
“How much do you think the government pays for each vaccine? Choi asked Satrice Stewart, who was shopping in Clayton County.
“I’m not sure. I don’t know,” Stewart said.
“I couldn’t even put a number honestly,” said client Brittany Smith.
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It’s an answer that many people don’t seem to know. But David Howard, a professor at Emory University in the Department of Health Policy and Management, does.
“The price they pay depends on the manufacturer, the time they bought it. But generally the prices are around $20 a dose, which is similar to what the government pays, and other private insurers pay for the flu shot,” Howard said.
“I think in some cases the vaccine maker didn’t want to be seen as taking advantage of a crisis,” Howard said.
Profiting from the crisis is exactly the concern of some when it comes to lawmakers doing stock trading.
Delaney Marsco is part of the Campaign Legal Center watchdog group, which has studied financial disclosure reports from congressional leaders during the COVID-19 crisis.
“They were buying stocks in remote work technologies, pharmaceutical companies. They were selling shares in cruise lines and restaurants. And it really highlighted why members of Congress trading individual stocks are such a problem,” Marsco said. “We can see when conflicts of interest arise. And we can see that sometimes our members of Congress seem to be, you know, looking to their own bottom line with the information that they get in the course of their official duties.
Channel 2 Action News found several Georgia lawmakers making stock trades involving pharmaceutical companies, including U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene.
His office said Channel 2 Action News it has no control over its investments. A third-party financial advisor handles all transactions.
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US Representative Rick Allen also traded pharmaceutical stocks. His office sent us a statement saying:
“Rep. Allen is adamantly opposed to any elected official using his position to improperly profit from stock trading, and he supports measures that prevent conflicts of interest. investment to a financial adviser.
“This is not a problem reserved for one party or one chamber of Congress. It’s a widespread problem,” Marsco said.
US Representative Austin Scott, former gubernatorial candidate David Perdue and former senator Kelly Loeffler also traded shares.
Some transactions date back to March 2020, when COVID-19 cases initially spiked in the United States
Channel 2 Action News found a Pfizer transaction that Perdue made, as well as Amgen and Merck transactions that Loeffler made in March 2020. The two were criticized for swapping millions of dollars in stocks while Congress dealt with the pandemic. Both said the Senate Ethics Committee, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department cleared them of any wrongdoing.
Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey failed to disclose stock trades worth up to $1 million in companies involved in the pandemic response.
“And the bottom line is that members of Congress have extraordinary access to privileged information, and we make federal policy. And we shouldn’t trade stocks or be allowed to,” Sen. Jon Ossoff said.
He recently introduced the bipartisan “Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act” which does just that – ban members of Congress from trading stocks while in office.
“75% of the American public, Democrats, Republicans and independents, support this policy,” Ossoff said.
Voters Choi spoke to agree.
“Of course, everyone is going to use it for their own personal gain. It should be pretty much everyone gets better. But nothing really surprises me at this point,” Brittany Smith said.
“The big man is going to win every time and we just survived,” Maurice Sawyer said.
How much money do the very few companies making the vaccines make?
They had a banner year in 2021 – $22 billion in profits for Pfizer, according to The Associated Press. It is a largely publicly funded vaccine.
The US government paid for much of the research used to find the recipe.
That’s why some say these companies shouldn’t make a penny during a crisis like this, especially when some countries are still in dire need of help. Channel 2 Action News takes a look at this angle for WSB tonight at 11pm
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