The state’s ethics board Monday ended its examination of whether Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade has a conflict disqualifying her from reviewing the acquisition of Cigna by Anthem, saying Wade’s voluntary recusal last week makes the question moot.
The Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board voted unanimously in a special meeting to drop consideration of a declaratory ruling that would have barred Wade’s involvement reviewing a deal merging two of the nation’s largest health insurers.
After Wade had her attorney deliver a lettering notifying the board of her recusal last week, the panel designated two members, Kevin P. Johnston and Dena Castricone, to clarify that her recusal applied to all aspects of the merger.
They reported in a meeting conducted by teleconference that the recusal applied to all aspects of the Anthem-Cigna deal, which is now on hold pending an antitrust challenge by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“I am of course pleased they clarified this is a full recusal,” said Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause, which petitioned the board for a declaratory ruling barring Wade from any role approving the Anthem-Cigna deal.
Wade, who worked for Cigna and is married to a lawyer employed by the Bloomfield-based insurer, said her recusal was prompted by a desire to end “unwarranted and unfair distractions” to her agency, not over any actual conflict of interest under Connecticut law.
Board member Daniel Young asked whether the panel should pursue the declaratory ruling and resolve as a matter of public record whether the board though Wade had a conflict of interest.
Barbara Housen, the general counsel to the board, said Wade’s recusal made the consideration of a declaratory ruling moot, because such rulings are not enforcement actions. In this case, the sole purpose of a ruling would have been to force Wade to step aside, not judge whether she should have stepped aside sooner.