Senate GOP accuses Wade of FOI violation in Cigna merger

Katharine L. Wade, during her confirmation hearing earlier this year.

Arielle Levin Becker / The CT Mirror

Katharine L. Wade, during her confirmation hearing earlier this year.

Senate Republicans asked the state Freedom of Information Commission on Friday to penalize Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade, saying she and her department withheld documents related to the pending merger of Anthem and Cigna that another agency deemed to be public information.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, and two other senators said the Insurance Department produced only nine pages of Anthem-Cigna documents in response to their freedom-of-information request, while the Office of State Ethics produced hundreds of pages of documents it had received from the insurance regulators.

Donna Tommelleo, the department spokeswoman, did not explain the discrepancy, other than saying, “The department responds to all FOI requests promptly, professionally and with the guidance of legal counsel.”

The documents produced by the Office of State Ethics, which is considering whether Wade’s relationship with Cigna constitutes a conflict of interest, included emails Wade wrote from her private account about Anthem-Cigna issues. The use of private emails and the refusal to produce relevant documents are willful violations of state law, the senators wrote.

“In light of the failure to provide nearly 500 pages of what another state agency has deemed to be public records, we are outraged at the Department of Insurance and their attempt to keep the public in the dark regarding a high profile merger that reeks with conflicts,” Fasano wrote in a complaint joined by Sens. Michael McLachlan of Danbury and Kevin Kelly of Stratford. “Due to what we feel to be a bad faith refusal to provide us with the requested documents, we file this formal notice of appeal to the Commission.

“In addition, as we believe this refusal is without reasonable grounds and must be viewed as a bad faith attempt to keep secret the Commissioner’s potential conflicts, we ask that the Commission set an example and take the rare action of imposing civil penalties against Commissioner Wade and her Department.”

They wrote that they were surprised by a CT Mirror story reporting that Wade never sought a formal opinion as to whether she had a conflict of interest.

Wade was employed by Cigna from 1992 to 2013, rising to vice president of government affairs, the company’s chief lobbyist. Her husband, Michael T. Wade, still works there as associate chief counsel for litigation. She says she holds no shares of Cigna stock, having divested it in April 2014.

Wade has previously said she has no conflict under Connecticut’s ethics code, which has no provision relating to the appearance of a conflict. The Office of State Ethics is heavily reliant on self-reporting.

No one from the office challenged Wade when she asserted no Cigna business was before her when she sought approval on Feb. 26 for her husband to sell company stock as his options vested from Feb. 25 to March 5 – something he would be barred from doing if the commissioner were considering a matter involving Cigna.

Wade disclosed that her staff was reviewing Anthem’s 5-month-old “Form A application” to acquire Cigna for $54 billion, but it had not reached her.

“The application is currently under review by Department staff,” Wade wrote in an email to the Office of State Ethics. “On behalf of the Department, I signed a contract with an independent economist to assist Department staff in their review of the Anthem Form A application. Presently, there are no Cigna matters before me.”

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