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WSJ: Federal officials traded stock in companies their agencies oversee

Oct 12, 2022

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According to a Wall Street Journal investigation, thousands of federal officials owned shares or traded stocks of companies whose fates were directly affected by their employers’ actions. The Journal published the investigation Tuesday after the paper “obtained and analyzed more than 31,000 financial-disclosure forms for about 12,000 senior career employees, political staff and presidential appointees.”

“The review spans 2016 through 2021 and includes data on about 850,000 financial assets and more than 315,000 trades reported in stocks, bonds and funds by the officials, their spouses or dependent children,” the Journal wrote. “The review amounts to the most comprehensive analysis of investments held by executive-branch officials, who have wide but largely unseen influence over public policy.”

Among the Journal’s findings:

  • More than five dozen officials at five agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department, reported trading stock in companies shortly before their departments announced enforcement actions, such as charges and settlements, against those companies.
  • More than 200 senior EPA officials, nearly one in three, reported investments in companies that were lobbying the agency.
  • At the Pentagon, officials in the office of the secretary reported collectively owning between $1.2 million and $3.4 million of stock in aerospace and defense companies on average each year.

The investigation into the owned and traded stock of federal officials comes as House Democratic leadership faced backlash from both moderates and progressives within the party over the alleged stalling of a bill that would ban members of Congress from trading stocks. Leaders unveiled draft legislation to tackle the issue late last month, leaving little time to bring it to a floor vote before Congress left for an extended recess.

“We weren’t really brought into the process. We didn’t really know what was happening with the bill. And at the end of the day, … there were things that perhaps we could have headed off at the pass, or fixed,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said on a press call last week.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), who introduced the bill, issued a statement, saying, “This moment marks a failure of House leadership — and it’s yet another example of why I believe that the Democratic Party needs new leaders in the halls of Capitol Hill.”

The Hill contributed to this report.

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POLITICIANS MAKE POLICY.
POLICY AFFECTS BUSINESS.
AND WHEN BUSINESS FINANCIALLY BENEFITS FROM POLICY…
POLITICIANS ARE LEGALLY REQUIRED TO KEEP THEIR POCKETBOOKS FAR FROM THOSE STOCKS.
BUT IN A WALL STREET JOURNAL INVESTIGATION…THEY FOUND FEDERAL EMPLOYEES ARE INVESTING IN COMPANIES THEIR AGENCIES OVERSEE.
A SIMILAR CONCEPT TO INSIDER TRADING…BUT IT’S LEGAL.
THE EXTENT OF GOVERNMENT WORKERS TRADING STOCKS INFLUENCED BY POLICY CHANGES IS IN THE THOUSANDS.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, THE TREASURY DEPARTMENT, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT, FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT…
YOU GET THE JIST.
A LOT OF BIG GOVERNMENT WITH BIG SAY SO.
AND OFFICIALS USING THAT ‘SAY SO’ TO INVEST IN COMPANIES THAT WOULD BENEFIT FROM THEIR REGULATIONS OR RULINGS.
CONSIDERED SHADY BUSINESS DEALINGS ACROSS BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE…
THE NEXT QUESTION WOULD BE IF ANY BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION COULD PREVENT UNFAIR TRADES AMONG FEDERAL OFFICIALS.
WELL — THERE IS.
BUT THE BILL HASN’T BUDGED IN THE HOUSE…LED BY NANCY PELOSI.
IT’S MOST RECENT EFFORT FELL THROUGH…NOT EVEN GOING TO A VOTE LAST MONTH.