February 06, 2019

Warren Questions "Mar-a-Lago Cronies" on Undue Influence Over Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Senator Concerned Trio May Have Personally Profited from Alleged Insider Role in VA Decision-making

Text of the Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today sent an oversight letter to three members of President Trump's private Mar-a-Lago club, Mr. Ike Perlmutter, Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, and Mr. Marc Sherman, seeking information on whether the trio personally profited from their close involvement in and knowledge of decision-making at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The senator's letter follows recent reports of the trio's widespread and undue influence on VA contracting and budgeting.

A report published by ProPublica in December 2018 revealed disturbing details regarding the scope of the influence that Mr. Perlmutter, Dr. Moskowitz, and Mr. Sherman have wielded over decision-making related to the VA.  According to the reports, the "Mar-a-Lago cronies" were heavily involved in a "multibillion-dollar effort to overhaul electronic health records for millions of veterans," which included reviewing a confidential draft of a $10 billion government contract for the electronic records project and attempting to persuade the VA and Apple to accept Dr. Moskowitz's app to carry out the project. ProPublica reports have revealed that the trio have been involved in or aware of VA decisions affecting at least four publicly traded companies, including Cerner Corporation, Apple, Johnson & Johnson, and Marvel Entertainment, LLC, the company where Mr. Perlmutter is Chairman.  

In her letter to Mr. Perlmutter, Dr. Moskowitz, and Mr. Sherman, Senator Warren expressed concern about the reports and questioned whether the trio may have engaged in stock trades or other financial transactions using nonpublic information they learned while working with VA officials. 

"Although you reportedly had access to and influence over key agency decisions and decision-makers, you were reportedly not subject to any of the conflicts-of-interest and other ethics rules that apply to government employees," wrote Senator Warren.  "As a result, I am concerned that you may have had the opportunity to profit from your arrangement, including possibly by engaging in trades or other actions to enrich yourselves or other third parties using nonpublic information that you obtained from VA officials."

The senator asked that the trio respond to her letter by no later than Friday, February 15, 2019.

Senator Warren and Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) initially requested an investigation by the VA Inspector General and Government Accountability Office (GAO) in August 2018 when ProPublica first reported on this matter. In November 2018, the GAO announced that it had accepted the senators' request for an investigation into the Mar-a-Lago trio's interference in VA decision-making, but the IG declined to open an investigation, informing the senators that it would "continue monitoring the situation." In December 2018, following the new reports in ProPublica, Senators Warren and Schatz reiterated their request for the VA Inspector General to investigate the matter.