- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade contends she has no conflict of interest that would prevent her from overseeing a proposed merger between Anthem Inc. and Bloomfield-based Cigna.

Wade’s attorney, Kimberly Knox, said Wade has consistently followed the advice of state ethics officials, even prior to her nomination as commissioner in 2015. Knox noted how Wade took multiple steps to avoid any potential conflict of interest, including divesting her interest in Cigna stock, and how Wade was assured by officials there was no conflict of interest.

“There has been no change in facts or circumstances warranting a different conclusion today,” said Knox, in comments included in documents filed Wednesday with the Citizens Ethics Advisory Board.

Wednesday marked the deadline for public comment on whether Wade should have recused herself from overseeing the merger between Cigna and Indianapolis-based Anthem. Besides being a former Cigna employee who oversaw government affairs until December 2013, Wade’s husband currently is an attorney with the insurer. Knox noted he is not an officer of the company, so his employment doesn’t create a conflict. Also, she said he’s been “firewalled from all matters” involving the state of Connecticut.

Common Cause of Connecticut has sought an ethics board ruling on whether Wade violated the state’s ethics code. The government reform group has questioned whether Wade can conduct a review of the merger in an unbiased way.

Also Wednesday, Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said it would be “prudent” for Wade to recuse herself.

Department of Insurance staff members are currently evaluating Anthem’s financial condition and corporate governance to ensure Cigna, a Connecticut company, won’t be harmed in the proposed merger and whether competition in the state’s insurance market would be substantially lessened, among other issues. Knox noted that Wade has taken no action to date on the application.

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