Thursday, September 22, 2005


Methinks the good Doctor could be in a wee spot of trouble:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- When Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist asked a trustee to sell all his stock in his family's hospital corporation, a large-scale sell-off by HCA Inc. insiders was under way.

Shares of the Nashville, Tenn.-based hospital company were near a 52-week peak in June when Frist and HCA insiders were selling off their shares -- just about a month before the price dropped.


Under Senate ethics rules, senators can directly order the sale of any asset known to have been in the trust before the metaphorical curtain was drawn. The senator also can communicate in writing matters of concern, including ''an interest in maximizing income or long-term capital gain.''

That is not how blind trusts normally work, said David Becker, who was general counsel at the SEC from 2000 to 2002. To avoid potential insider-trading conflicts, the beneficiary usually has no knowledge or participation in investment decisions.

If Frist was allowed to ask for stock to be sold, ''the question here is, How blind is blind?'' Becker said.