WASHINGTON – STATEMENT BY SENATE MAJORITY LEADER BILL FRIST
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) today made the following statement:
"When I first ran for the Senate over 10 years ago, I made a commitment to the people of Tennessee that if elected, I would serve them to the best of my ability and uphold the highest ethical standards. I have tried to go above and beyond anything required by the Senate rules or the law.
"Now some questions have arisen, so let me tell you what I know and what I did.
"When deciding how to handle my family's personal investments, I always sought expert advice and Senate Ethics Committee review and approval. Despite not being required to do so, I sought and obtained two Ethics Committee opinions acknowledging that my ownership of HCA stock complied with Senate rules and did not present a conflict of interest with my Senate duties. Despite not being required to do so, I later chose to place many of my investments in blind trusts, including my HCA stock. With these efforts, I have sought to guarantee that no conflict of interest existed. Review after review has found nothing wrong. Nevertheless, the complaints and questions have persisted.
"Because of these continuing questions, and looking ahead at my final years in the Senate and what might come next, I have for some time wanted to eliminate even the possibility of an appearance of a conflict by totally divesting of any HCA stock in my family's trusts.
"In April, I asked my staff to determine if Senate rules and relevant laws would allow me to direct the trustees to sell any remaining HCA stock. After my staff reviewed relevant statutes and Senate rules and consulted with outside counsel and Senate Ethics Committee staff, I learned that the rules allowed me to direct the trustees to sell any remaining HCA stock in my blind trusts.
"In May, my staff worked with outside counsel and the Senate Ethics Committee staff to draft a written communication to the trustees. After obtaining pre-approval by mid-June from the Senate Ethics Committee, I issued a letter directing my trustees to sell any remaining HCA stock in my family's trusts.
"Now I am being asked to explain this decision. I understand that. And I welcome it.
"An examination of the facts will demonstrate that I acted properly. I will cooperate with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York to provide the information they need as quickly as possible. My only objective in selling the stock was to eliminate the appearance of a conflict of interest. I had no information about HCA or its performance that was not publicly available when I directed the trustees to sell the stock.
"Now, I'm going to get back to work. While you all will have many questions, we will answer as much as we can, as fast as we can, consistent with the inquiries underway.
Almost 350 pages of documents relating to the Trusts of Sen. William H. Frist are now available online for review. These public documents include the actual trust agreements and letters relating to stock sales and also additions to the trusts. Click here to view the documents.