Just last week the Washington Free Beacon reported that former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her husband Paul may have used privileged information to cut their losses in the stock market.
Financial disclosure filings that Nancy submitted to the House Ethics Committee revealed that Paul sold 30,000 shares of Google worth approximately $3 million between Dec. 20 and Dec. 28.
A month later, on Jan. 24, 2023, the Justice Department and attorneys general from eight states—including Pelosi’s home state of California—sued Google for monopolizing digital advertising technologies via serial acquisitions and engaging in other anti-competitive practices.
The lawsuit may compel Google to break up into smaller units and have other restrictions instituted.
The news of the lawsuit caused the price of Google’s stock to plummet by 6 percent.
This trade is the latest in a string of questionable transactions by the Pelosi couple.
A Washington Free Beacon analysis revealed that the Pelosi couple have seen their fortune grow to $140 million since 2008, due to Paul’s stock trades.
Pelosi’s stock market charades have sparked calls for tougher regulations on members of Congress cashing in on their positions of power.
A House Speaker’s disclosure report from last year revealed that Paul invested $5 million in 20,000 shares of NVIDIA, a firm known for designing and manufacturing graphics-processing chips.
The Daily Caller revealed that Paul’s stock purchase was prior to a vote on a bill that would deliver massive grants, subsidies, and tax credits to chip manufacturing.
Clearly, Speaker Pelosi was aware of the contents of the bill and the fact that it was heading for a vote in the Senate.
Paul and Nancy saved roughly $600,000 in June by selling shares of microchip maker NVIDIA weeks before the U.S. government placed restrictions on the company’s business in China and Russia.
Back in 2021, Paul made over $5 million after trading stocks in Google parent company Alphabet Inc, Amazon, and Apple, prior to the House Judiciary Committee’s vote to advance five antitrust bills against the tech giants.
Paul is not the only offender.
Lawmakers from both parties invested in sectors whose importance was elevated following the COVID-19 pandemic. They also sold investments from sectors adversely affected by the pandemic. Their investments were obviously based on prior knowledge of the emergency bills scheduled to be passed during the pandemic.
Business Insider’s Conflicted Congress investigation report from December 2021 revealed dozens of STOCK Act violations, numerous potential conflicts of interest driven by lawmakers’ stock holdings, and measly enforcement of anti-insider trading rules.
Forty-nine members of Congress and 182 senior congressional staffers were found to have violated laws aimed at preventing insider trading, but they received no punishment.
What happens beyond D.C.?
A Netflix employee was sentenced to 14 months in prison and $10,000 in fines for insider trading, while the husband of a former Amazon employee was sentenced to 26 months in prison for the same offense.
In 2004, Martha Stewart was sentenced to five months in prison and two years of supervised release along with $30,000 in fines for similar offenses.
The laws do not apply to those who make the laws.
So what is being done to combat this?
Last September, House Democrat Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas introduced a bill that banned members of Congress and other government officials, including Supreme Court justices from owning or trading stocks.
But the vote on the bill was delayed, by then-House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, known to be a close Pelosi ally. The excuse for the postponement was that there was not enough time to read the 26-page bill.
The same House passed an omnibus spending bill last December that runs into 4,155 pagesm in a matter of hours.
Pelosi, who initially rejected the idea of a stock trading ban, claimed to have had a change of mind. But instead of simply supporting Rep. Spanberger’s bill, Pelosi engaged in the usual skulduggery and subterfuge to kill the legislation.
So why should elected leaders and other government officials be banned from trading?
Shouldn’t every individual regardless of the organization they work for be allowed to invest as they please in a free market economy?
A free market economy works only when it is grounded in fairness.
The stock markets are fair only when all potential investors have identical access to the same information and some among them apply acumen to reap profits.
Government officials both elected and unelected, often have access to information about actions to be taken by the government or laws to be passed that could affect certain sectors of business. Engaging in trade after this prior knowledge gives them an unfair advantage and is tantamount to abuse of office.
In light of the ongoing failure of even laws to police them, they must now refrain from misusing their position in government to reap profits.
They are always free to resign from their positions and dedicate their lives to making millions in the stock market.
But hope for fairness may be on the way.
GOP Sen. Josh Hawley from Missouri recently introduced the Preventing Elected Leaders from Owning Securities and Investments Act also aptly named the PELOSI Act.
The goal behind the act is to prohibit members of Congress and their spouses from ‘holding, acquiring, or selling stocks or equivalent economic interests during their tenure in elected office.’
Hawley said the following:
“For too long, politicians in Washington have taken advantage of the economic system they write the rules for, turning profits for themselves at the expense of the American people.”
“As members of Congress, both Senators and Representatives are tasked with providing oversight of the same companies they invest in, yet they continually buy and sell stocks, outperforming the market time and again.”
There are some major challenges to the bill.
Passing it through the House and Senate and getting signed by Biden is not going to be easy. There must be numerous rogue lawmakers in both parties who will be keen to kill the bill.
It will take some astute stewardship from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other leading members of the House to pass the bill. The previously failed legislation aimed to prevent insider trading by government officials had 71 co-sponsors, from MAGA Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida to squad member Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Hence, there may be scope for bipartisanship here.
Will Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lead the way to get the bill passed in the Senate, and most importantly, will Joe Biden sign the bill to make it a law?
Experience would suggest that we don’t hold our breath for that to occur.
If by some miracle the bill is passed, the challenge is to ensure that these laws and other existing laws are enforced to punish the offenders.
Still, the fact that another attempt is being made to ensure order, fairness, and accountability in D.C., must be lauded.
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