NEW YORK (AP) — A powerful U.S. House of Representatives committee was ordered on Friday to appear before a judge next month to explain why it should not be required to turn over documents in an insider-trading probe.
U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe in Manhattan set a July 1 hearing for the Ways and Means Committee to appear. He also required a committee staffer, Brian Sutter, to appear. He said the committee must show why it should not be ordered to produce documents demanded by the Securities and Exchange Commission in May.
In court papers, the SEC said its probe relates to whether secrets were passed to certain members of the public surrounding an April 2013 announcement by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about a Medicare program.
Sutter, the health subcommittee's staff director, disclosed on May 9 to House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, that he had received a subpoena from the SEC for documents and testimony along with a grand jury subpoena from federal prosecutors in Manhattan, according to the congressional record of that day.
The SEC said in its court papers that the committee and Sutter had refused to comply with the subpoenas. It said they had asserted "numerous objections, arguing, among other things, that the subpoenas are 'repugnant to public policy;' that they are vague and overbroad" and that the speech or debate clause of the Constitution entitled them to avoid producing the documents or testimony.
Kerry W. Kircher, general counsel for the House of Representatives, said in an email to The Associated Press that the SEC subpoenas "run seriously afoul of the Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause." Kircher said House lawyers are aware the federal judge wants a response by next Thursday and will respond on that ground, among others.
The SEC noted that a public rate announcement about the Medicare Advantage program that was far more favorable to certain health care insurers than anticipated was made 20 minutes after the market closed on April 1, 2013. But, it said, an analyst at dealer-broker Height Securities LLC issued a flash report about 20 minutes before the markets closed urging dozens of clients, including prominent investment funds, to buy stocks that would benefit from a rate increase close to what was announced.