A Select Investigative Panel of the U.S. House of Representatives, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, on Wednesday approved a report recommending that StemExpress and its Chief Executive Officer, Catherine Spears Dyer, be held in contempt of Congress.
The committee found that the company failed to comply with lawfully issued subpoenas.
Blackburn issued the following statement after the Panel passed the report by a vote of 8-0:
“Nearly one year ago our panel was established and given the important task of investigating very disturbing allegations that some abortion clinics and middleman procurement organizations, including StemExpresss, were violating federal law by profiting from the sale of human fetal tissue. In order to determine if these entities were in violation of federal law or if the relevant statute needs to be updated, our panel must review all accounting and banking records.
“Nine months is enough time for an entity to produce accounting documents. It is our hope that by approving this report today, StemExpress and its CEO, Cate Dyer, will begin to take our investigation seriously. It’s time for them to turn over the records we need to complete our investigation.
“A subpoena is not a suggestion. It is a lawful order that must be complied with. If StemExpress continues to obstruct, then we will work with House leadership to determine the necessary next steps.”
Blackburn, speaking at the beginning of deliberations, said the committee first asked for the records, including the following, on Dec. 17, 2015:
- a list of all entities from which StemExpress receives or procures fetal tissue;
- a list of all entities to which StemExpress sells or donates fetal tissue;
- an organization of company personnel involved in the procurement of fetal tissue;
- all communications directing StemExpress personnel to procure fetal tissue;
- all accounting records related to the cost and pricing of fetal tissue; documents relating to rent or site fees paid to abortion clinics where StemExpress obtained fetal tissue;
- AND all StemExpress banking records related to fetal tissue.
Blackburn said that after StemExpress cited non-disclosure agreements and did not provide the names of its non-public customers or the detailed organization chart, or the accounting and banking records, the panel issued a subpoena on Feb. 12, 2016, requiring StemExpress to produce, among other items, the names of employees involved in the procurement of fetal tissue. The company refused, citing safety concerns and produced accounting summaries rather than specific records.
The Panel issued a second subpoena on March 29 to Cate Dyer, requiring the production of the names of the firm’s finance director, finance manager, or account manager. The subpoena also required the production of accounts payable and receivable.
StemExpress to date has not produced those documents.
Blackburn said the requests are not unique: Congressional committees frequently request accounting records and other sensitive documents during investigations.