How The Salt Lake Tribune investigated the connection between the SEC and Co-Diagnostics

And here’s how you can help The Tribune continue its investigative reporting.

(Rick Bowmer | AP) This April 20, 2016 photo, shows The Salt Lake Tribune sign in Salt Lake City.

This week, The Salt Lake Tribune published a piece that revealed the Securities and and Exchange Commission made inquiries into how COVID-19 tests from Salt Lake City’s Co-Diagnostics were used during Silicon Slopes’ TestUtah initiative. The Tribune’s investigation revealed that a Silicon Slopes board member used his connections with Sen. Mitt Romney’s office to request help with an FDA approval for the tests.

The Tribune also reported on how insiders noticed data that showed the Co-Diagnostics’ COVID-19 tests were faulty. Other states, which were using Co-Diagnostics tests through contracts with Nomi Health, sought to pull out of their contracts. Utah stopped using Co-Diagnostics tests last summer.

Co-Diagnostics saw its stock price skyrocket 35,000% during the pandemic. The company has been served three federal lawsuits claiming it made misleading statements.

A story like this involves a lot of moving parts, including interviews, records requests, fact checking and more. Here is how we did it.

Our reporting began with a question: As so many suffered and sacrificed, who in Utah benefitted from the coronavirus?

To answer the question, we reviewed previous Tribune reporting, reporting from other news organizations, SEC filings for public companies involved in Utah’s coronavirus response, thousands of pages of public records and lawsuits filed both at the state and federal levels. We revewed public documents from Jittai, an LLC formed by Tribune board chair Paul Huntsman.

Co-Diagnostics stood out for its significant financial turnaround, from losses of more than $6 million in 2019 to a profit of more than $42 million in 2020, even as the accuracy of its tests was repeatedly questioned.

Reporter Andrew Becker conducted dozens of interviews, with medical doctors and public health experts, federal regulators, attorneys and a financial analyst and government ethicist.

We made multiple attempts to speak with Co-Diagnostics, as well as other companies involved in Utah’s coronavirus response, including Nomi Health, Qualtrics and Domo. We also engaged with the FDA, SEC, Sen. Mitt Romney’s office and Gov. Spencer Cox’s office. None of them could either fit us into their schedules or would commit to speaking on the record, though Romney’s office shared a comment after the piece appeared online.

And Cox addressed it during his weekly press conference, saying, “I sure as hell was going to use every test I could get in the state of Utah.”

The Utah Department of Health shared helpful data, as we looked to put the number of and cost of Co-Diagnostics’ tests into perspective.

With one year’s worth of documents and a strong grounding thanks to previous Tribune reporting, we had time to build out a chronological story that - when it was finished - illuminated just how unprecedented the last year has been, for Co-Diagnostics and Utah.

This type of investigative reporting is not only integral to our mission as a nonprofit, but essential keeping our democracy working. We take our role as a watchdog seriously, and we cannot do it alone. We need the public’s financial help to continue doing what we do. We also need your tips and story suggestions.

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