Monday, November 14, 2011

Congress is exempt from the insider trading law

Capitol Gains:

I have written several times before (e.g. here and here) about how Washington insiders, politicians and staff, use their knowledge of behind the scene deals to profit in the stock market (see also Megan McArdle’s recent piece from which I stole the headline). Last night 60 Minutes reported on the story based on new research in Throw Them All Out a forthcoming book by Peter Schweizer.


Here is one bit from the transcript:


In mid September 2008 with the Dow Jones Industrial average still above ten thousand, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke were holding closed door briefings with congressional leaders, and privately warning them that a global financial meltdown could occur within a few days. One of those attending was Alabama Representative Spencer Bachus, then the ranking Republican member on the House Financial Services Committee and now its chairman.


Schweizer: These meetings were so sensitive– that they would actually confiscate cell phones and Blackberries going into those meetings. What we know is that those meetings were held one day and literally the next day Congressman Bachus would engage in buying stock options based on apocalyptic briefings he had the day before from the Fed chairman and treasury secretary. I mean, talk about a stock tip.


While Congressman Bachus was publicly trying to keep the economy from cratering, he was privately betting that it would, buying option funds that would go up in value if the market went down. He would make a variety of trades and profited at a time when most Americans were losing their shirts.


Even though the Congress is exempt from insider trading law, many of 60 Minutes’s findings are hugely damning, which you can tell just by looking at the stunned faces of John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi when Steve Kroft questions them about their special dealings. The video is here.


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