30 Jan 2012
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate will vote today on legislation to clarify federal laws against insider trading by members of Congress, one of few ideas that currently has bipartisan support in both houses.
Bills have been pending in Congress for years but they hit the fast track after a book and corresponding national news report in November accused several members, including Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, of using nonpublic information gleaned in the halls of Congress to guide their personal investment decisions.
President Barack Obama mentioned the issue in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, and on Thursday night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled a procedural vote on the Senate version of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act, for today.
Bachus has denied wrongdoing and disputed the findings in the book "Throw Them All Out," which ignited the concerns on Capitol Hill.
Bachus, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, held a hearing on the House version of the legislation in December and scheduled a vote, but House leadership postponed it. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia later said he planned to pursue an expanded version of the bill.
"Chairman Bachus believes it is absolutely imperative that legislation addressing this issue be approved by the House," said his committee spokesman Jeff Emerson.
Supporters of the legislation, which are now many from both parties, say it's needed to clarify that existing laws against insider trading not only apply to members of Congress, but will also help prosecutors and regulators investigate and prosecute such cases. The Senate bill also includes a requirement that members of Congress disclose their personal financial information more often and in an electronically searchable format, as opposed to the once-a-year paper filings.
"I hope the Senate passes the STOCK Act and sends a unified message to the American people that Congress is not above the law and will be held accountable," said Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and a leading sponsor. "We have to earn back the trust of the American people, and I think this bill helps clarify that members and staff are here to serve--not to profit from privileged information."
Bachus has always been an active stock trader but he stopped in October 2010, just before he became chairman of the committee, after questions about his trading persisted. For example, as the banking crisis unfolded in September 2008 and he was part of the high-level negotiations over the bailout, Bachus was making trades that paid off as the markets dropped.
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