I have made mention of Connecticut Governor Mike Malloy’s unseemly closeness to Cigna and Anthem while his administration was reviewing a merger between the two insurance behemoths, appointing an insurance company lobbyist to review their merger.
Well, this story just got even more brazenly corrupt:
Facing criticism over his decision to appoint a former Cigna lobbyist to a position regulating Cigna’s controversial merger, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy has sought to distance himself from the merger review. The regulator in question, Katharine Wade, has said she followed all applicable conflict-of-interest rules. But newly unearthed documents detail Malloy’s meetings with company officials and with Wade — and also raise new questions about Wade’s financial connections to Cigna.
The emails were released to International Business Times in response to a series of open records requests amid a state ethics probe that has helped throw the colossal Cigna-Anthem deal into turmoil. Connecticut has been leading the multistate regulatory review of the deal, which physicians and consumer groups say could raise healthcare premiums for up to 53 million Americans across the country. Soon after the launch of the ethics probe about whether Wade must recuse herself from the regulatory review, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking the transaction. Connecticut’s ethics office is expected to rule on the Wade controversy in the coming weeks.
Malloy has maintained that his state’s merger approval is “an independent decision” by his insurance department and that he has not been involved in the merger review. The documents, though, shed new light on his contacts with the companies and his regulator while that review was proceeding.
One set of documents shows that the governor met with Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish on August 28, 2015. That was two days after Anthem and Cigna executives met with Wade’s agency specifically about Connecticut’s merger review, and the same day Anthem donated $25,000 to the Democratic Governors Association, which backed Malloy’s closely contested election campaigns. At the time, Malloy was already gearing up to lead the DGA in 2016.
Emails previously obtained by IBT show that Malloy spoke with Swedish and Cigna CEO David Cordani the night before the merger was announced. They also show that Malloy’s top economic development official told Cordani the governor’s administration would help Cigna if the company pursued the merger. Calendar items just obtained by IBT show Malloy later met with Cordani in the governor’s office in June of 2016 — three days after Connecticut Common Cause called for the ethics probe of Wade over her ties to Cigna.
Another set of documents shows that Malloy met with Wade a few weeks after Anthem announced its bid to merge with Cigna and just days before the transaction was cemented. Malloy met with Wade two more times as the merger progressed. Immediately after one such meeting, Insurance Department visitor logs show Wade met with Amy Lazzaro — Cigna’s lobbyist in Hartford who had previously served as the Connecticut Insurance Department’s chief of staff.
Connecticut has suspended its review of the merger, pending the outcome of the federal lawsuit against Cigna and Anthem. But because that case could be settled and the merger could still go forward, ethics regulators decided to continue their review of Wade: She is a former Cigna vice president whose husband works at the company and whose father-in-law has been listed as a company attorney. Emails obtained by IBT suggest that their inquiry into whether Wade must recuse herself from the merger review is focusing specifically on her own agency’s strict conflict-of-interest rules.
The depressing thing is that with recent court rulings on corruption prosecutions, this is all completely legal.