UnitedHealth chairman, executives sold stock before probe became public: Bloomberg

Bloomberg reported April 11 that UnitedHealth Group's chairman and three of the company's executives made a combined $101.5 million from stock sales made over a four-month period leading up to the public becoming aware of a Justice Department antitrust investigation

The stock sales occurred between Oct. 16 — the week after the company reportedly received notice of the Justice Department's investigation — and Feb. 26, the day Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal and other outlets reported on the investigation, according to the report. Shares fell 5.2% in two trading sessions on Feb. 27 and 28 after the investigation was widely reported. 

Bloomberg reported that there is no indication the trades were executed according to scheduled trading plans in filing related to the sales. UnitedHealth said officers and directors must get clearance to trade stock and the trading period is limited to certain windows that open after earnings reports. The company's third-quarter 2023 earnings report was released Oct. 13. 

The spokesperson told Bloomberg that "these directors and officers followed our protocols and received approval from the company." The spokesperson said they have no comment beyond the company's response. UnitedHealth Group said in regulatory filing that it is subject to "routine, regular and special investigations, audits and reviews" from state and federal agencies, including the Justice Department. 

UnitedHealth Group did not immediately respond to a message from Becker's seeking comment on the report.   

UnitedHealth Group Chairman Stephen Hemsley, who has been in the role since 2017 after serving as the company's CEO, exercised a portion of his stock options Oct. 17 that were set to expire in 2024, according to the report. He sold the shares he acquired the same day. The sales earned him $84.9 million. 

UnitedHealthcare CEO Brian Thompson exercised options and sold shares on Feb. 16, which netted him $15.1 million, according to the report. In the following days, Chief Accounting Officer Tom Roos sold shares for $450,000. Chief People Officer Erin McSweeney exercised options and sold shares on Oct. 16, netting $1.09 million. 

Mr. Hemsley's options were set to expire in February and November 2024, while Mr. Thompson's and Ms. McSweeney's had several years before expiration, according to the report. 

Bloomberg reported that Mr. Hemsley rarely sold stock during his more than a decade serving as UnitedHealth Group's CEO. Beginning in 2020, he sold shares at irregular intervals. Ms. McSweeney and Mr. Roos have occasionally sold stock, but this is the first year Mr. Thompson sold shares since he became CEO of UnitedHealthcare in 2021. 

UnitedHealth Group has not publicly acknowledged the reported antitrust investigation. The Justice Department has also not commented on the investigation. 

In addition to the antitrust investigation, UnitedHealth has been dealing with the fallout of the cyberattack on its Change Healthcare subsidiary, which was first reported Feb. 21.

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