House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposes banning Congress members from owning individual stocks: ‘We’re a free market economy’ – CNBC
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scoffed Wednesday at the idea of banning congressional lawmakers and their spouses from owning shares of individual companies, despite the possibilities for conflicts of interest between their legislative duties and personal finances.
“No,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters at a news conference where she was asked whether she would support such a prohibition.
“We’re a free market economy,” she said. “They should be able to participate in that.”
Pelosi’s dismissal of the idea of a stock purchase ban came in response to a question about a Business Insider investigative report this week on share ownership by lawmakers, and after controversies over stock purchases by a number of senators since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Business Insider series found that 49 members of Congress and 182 senior-level congressional staffers had violated the so-called STOCK Act, which requires public disclosure by themselves and family members within 45 days of sales or purchases of individual stocks, bonds and commodity futures.
The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, which became law in 2012, is supposed to prevent lawmakers and staffers from engaging in trading on information they glean from their jobs, as well as conflicts of interest.
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But violations of the STOCK Act, if sanctioned at all, usually result in fines of just $200.
“We have a responsibility to report” stock trades, Pelosi said Wednesday.
The speaker said she was not familiar with the findings of the Business Insider series.
“But If people aren’t reporting [stock trades], they should be,” Pelosi added.
Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, blasted Pelosi’s reference to the “free market economy” in the first of a series of tweets about the lack of a ban on stock ownership by lawmakers.
“It’s a ridiculous comment!” Shaub wrote. “She might as well have said ‘let them eat cake.’ Sure, it’s a free-market economy. But your average schmuck doesn’t get confidential briefings from government experts chock full of nonpublic information directly related to the price of stocks.”
In another tweet, Shaub wrote, “In an objective world, free of politics, members of Congress would be mocked for the absurdly weak ethics rules they’ve written for themselves.”
Earlier Monday, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler called for tougher rules limiting stock trading by corporate chief executive officers and other top executives.
In October, the Federal Reserve announced a wide-ranging ban on officials of the central bank owning individual stocks and bonds.
That ban …….
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