Who Is Hansjorg Wyss?
Among the rogues’ gallery of supporters of Bill and Hillary Clinton is a mysterious Swiss billionaire who has sidestepped scandal after scandal while propping up Democratic causes despite not being a U.S. citizen.
Reclusive 80-year-old Hansjörg Wyss is a wealthy businessman who is reportedly worth at least $6 billion and the fifth-richest man in Switzerland. Although a citizen of the alpine country, Wyss spends most of his time in the United States and is very active in its politics.
He has given at least $5 million to the Clintons via their eponymous Foundation and donated money in the tens of millions to progressive and liberal organizations such as Planned Parenthood, EarthJustice and the American Civil Liberties Union.
This was in addition to funding the campaigns of at least seven congressmen and giving money to at least four liberal political action committees (PACs) between 1998 and 2003.
Forbes magazine has declared him “among the most philanthropic people in the world.” Despite a 1966 ban on donations to American political campaign from foreign citizens, Wyss was able to make many of these contributions because he claims to be a permanent resident of the U.S.
However, Wyss is unfortunately far from the most innocent long-term visitor to these shores. Wyss is in the healthcare business, formerly the chairman of a medical device company called Synthes.
He also runs three foundations which he uses essentially as piggy banks to make political donations: the Wyss Foundation, which is valued at $2 billion, the Wyss Medical Foundation, valued at $85 million, and the Hansjörg Wyss Foundation, valued at $300 million.
Although Wyss ran medical company Synthes for two decades, his background is not in medicine. In the past, he worked extensively in the textile industry as well as conducting an aircraft sales business on the side for some time.
It was through this latter company that Wyss met the Swiss co-founder of Synthes, from whom he purchased the firm in 1977, despite not having a deep understanding of the enterprise or the industry it operated in.
After purchasing the company, however, Wyss became a very hands-on manager — in fact, some would say dangerously hands-on. Observers have said he was obsessively concerned with the company’s new products and their marketing.
A former manager was quoted as saying “for somebody who is at his level and his level of success, I would say he [Wyss] has a surprising amount of contact with what’s going on.”
One of those new products was called Norian, a bone repair cement used to patch vertebral compression fractures. Wyss executives had marketed Norian off-label, meaning that the company was pushing it despite not having received FDA approval for the compound.
Indeed, in internal tests, the substance was lethal, killing multiple animals the company tested it on. When the substance caused blood clots in the hearts and lungs of five human patients, they died as well.
In 2009, the U.S. Justice Department charged Synthes with 52 felony counts for the fatalities, obtaining a $22 million settlement and jail sentences for four of the company’s executives.
The judge in the case went beyond the sentencing guidelines in the case of at least one executive, stating that “what has occurred in this case, in terms of wrongfulness — it’s 11 on a scale of 10.”
One of the prosecuting attorneys in the case, Mary Crawley, accused the company of engaging in “human experimentation,” saying that Synthes “used these people, these elderly patients, as guinea pigs and ignored time-honored principles of informed consent.”
An attorney for one of the five victims rebuked Wyss, saying that he “entered into a criminal enterprise to perform illegal and experimental surgeries on patients.”
Wyss himself wasn’t charged. However, the Justice Department indictment referred to a “person 7” — the company’s CEO (who was Wyss at the time) — as having directed the firm to not follow the prescribed FDA process of clinical trials.
A Fortune magazine article written about the case speculated that the only reason Wyss wasn’t charged was due to lack of evidence. Other interested parties, including the conservative Citizens United nonprofit organization, believe that Wyss’ ties to the Democratic Party may have played a part in the indifference to his prosecution.
It wasn’t Wyss’ first brush with the law. Despite pledging money to the Clinton Foundation’s efforts to work for women’s rights around the globe, Wyss was sued in 2011 for $1.5 million by employee Jackie Long for sexual harassment.
In 2012, Wyss sold Synthes to Fortune 100 multinational Johnson & Johnson for $21.3 billion in stock and cash. With some of that money, Wyss hired current Hillary Clinton campaign chairman and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton John Podesta for “consulting services” in 2013.
Podesta may be familiar to some readers as the former president and CEO of the Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive public policy organization that had a huge influence on the formation of the two Obama administrations. Wyss has donated over $4 million to the CAP and sits on its Board.
A 2013 article in political journal The Nation said the CAP was “among the most secretive of all think tanks concerning its donors.” Those donors have included Hillary Clinton presidential campaign funders George Soros, film producer Steve Bing and insurance mogul Peter Lewis.
In 2008, Time magazine noted, “not since the Heritage Foundation helped guide Ronald Reagan’s transition in 1981 has a single outside group held so much sway.”
The CAP maintains websites ThinkProgress (which incorporates the influential Climate Progress blog); Generation Progress, which features youth-oriented content; and Science Progress, dedicated “to improv[ing] the understanding of science among policymakers and other thought leaders.”
John Podesta went on to serve as Counselor to President Barack Obama in 2014 and 2015 and currently acts as the U.S. Representative for the United Nations’ Post-2015 Development Agenda.
Podesta worked for the Hansjörg Wyss Foundation in 2013, leading to a possible conflict of interest as determined by the Office of Government Ethics due to his job in the Obama administration immediately following that role. The year that Podesta worked for the Hansjörg Wyss Foundation, Wyss made a $1.5 million contribution to the CAP.
All of what Podesta did for Wyss is not totally clear; however, what’s known is that he played a part in the Obama administration’s blocking of Alaska oil drilling and limiting large tracts of wilderness land from being used for cattle grazing or development.
Wyss has a long history of giving six-figure grants to environmental and land activism organizations that inhibit the removal of natural resources from rural property.
Wyss is also a proponent of more open borders and immigrants’ rights and has argued with conservative Swiss billionaire Christoph Blocher on this issue.
However, most of the time, Wyss keeps a low profile in Wilson, Wyoming, giving few interviews and not disclosing the full accounting of his political funding foundations, all of which have Swiss bank accounts.
Despite the 1966 law banning political donations from foreigners, it appears Wyss has had no problem with influencing political outcomes in the United States government for at least the last two decades.
Perhaps it’s time for the 1966 law to be revisited, as Wyss is still not a U.S. citizen and appears to have no plans to become one.
~American Liberty Report