Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced final passage of the STOCK Act, bipartisan, common sense legislation to make insider trading in Congress clearly and expressly illegal. Senator Gillibrand has been a leading advocate for increasing the accountability and transparency of Congress.
“I strongly believe that we have to make clear – that nobody here is above the law and that members of Congress need to play by the exact same set of rules as every other American. It is simply the right thing to do,” Senator Gillibrand said. “This strong bill with teeth is a good step forward to begin restoring our trust with the American people.”
A news report in the Washington Post hailed the STOCK Act as the “most substantial debate on congressional ethics in nearly five years.” In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to pass this bill, which was originally introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.
The STOCK Act explicitly bars a member of Congress, their staff and all federal employees from engaging in insider trading or otherwise using nonpublic information gained through their work for their own personal benefit, and clarifies that this provision constitutes a sufficient basis for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate and prosecute members of Congress engaging in insider trading – including the “tipping” of non-public information. By incorporating feedback from witnesses at the December 1 committee hearing, the legislation directly corrects the ambiguity in existing laws to ensure that members of Congress, their families and their staffs are fully covered by insider trading laws. The legislation is carefully crafted to not alter existing insider trading law, but to simply ensure that members of Congress, their families, their staff and federal employees are fully covered by it.
The bill would establish for the first time a clear, fiduciary responsibility to the American people, removing any doubt to whether the SEC and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission are empowered to investigate and prosecute cases involving trading of securities. For additional teeth, the legislation also directs the Congressional Ethics Committees to write rules to enforce this provision. As a result, the legislation would empower the Ethics Committees, as well as the SEC, to enforce rules against insider trading by members of Congress and Congressional staff, but would not require the 67 vote threshold required to directly amend Senate rules in mid-session.
For added transparency, the legislation further enhances disclosure requirements by requiring that members of Congress report stock and other major financial transactions within 30 days, dramatically less than the current annual reporting requirement, and reduced from the 90 days proposed in the original draft of the legislation. Under the legislation, these reports and other financial disclosures must be posted online.
Senator Gillibrand preferred the version of the STOCK Act first passed by the Senate that included a provision she wrote that would require “political intelligence consultants” – individuals contacting legislative and executive branch employees to acquire market intelligence regarding a proposed rule, regulation or legislation – to register as lobbyists, and would make them subject to the same reporting requirements and other restrictions imposed on lobbyists. She has vowed to work with Senator Charles Grassley and Congresswoman Slaughter to pass legislation to add these reforms to the law.
The STOCK Act is supported by at least seven government reform groups including: Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation and U.S. PIRG.