Senate Passes Congress Insider Trading Ban

Mar 22, 2012 3:18pm

The STOCK act, House-passed legislation to ban members of Congress from benefiting from insider stock trading, was approved by the Senate today 96-3 and will go to President Obama for his signature.

The bill reaffirms that members of Congress, Congressional staff, and Executive and Judicial branch officials are not exempt from the insider trading prohibitions arising under securities and commodities laws.

Members of Congress have consistently cited this legislation as one that could help restore some of the public’s confidence and trust.

“I believe by the overwhelming vote today that we have sent a message to the American people that we recognize that elected office is a place not for personal gain but for public service,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said following the vote.

The bill requires members and senior congressional staff to report the purchase or sale of securities exceeding $1,000 no later than 30 days after the transaction. It also requires senior executive branch  officials to disclose their home mortgages.

“I believe those who make the laws should live under the same laws as everyone else,” Sen. Scott Borwn, R-Mass., said, “Insider trading is wrong, whether it happens on Wall Street or on Capitol Hill. The passage of this legislation is an important step toward restoring trust in our government.”

The bill bans this group from participating in initial public offerings in any manner other than what is available to the members of the public. It strengthens laws relating to denial of Congressional pensions to members who commit public corrupt crimes while serving in Congress and will deny pensions to former members who commit those crimes while serving in public offices.

The bill also prohibits executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from receiving bonuses while the firms remain in federal conservatorship.

The House of Representatives bill that ultimately passed was widely seen as a watered-down version of the original Senate bill. Democrats complained that the House bill was weaker than the Senate-passed legislation because it eliminated a political intelligence registration requirement and dropped anti-corruption legislation.

Republicans, on the other hand, believed the changes made it stronger because they added provisions expanding the scope of the bill “to fully cover the Executive Branch” and ensure that members of Congress convicted of a crime do not receive taxpayer-funded pensions.

Republicans argue they have strengthened the Senate’s legislation by, among other changes, adding a provision that implicitly targets House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. That provision amends the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to stipulate that members of Congress “may not purchase securities that are the subject of an initial public offering…in any manner other than is available to members of the public generally.”

The legislation had been stalled in Congress since early last month, after the Senate and the House of Representatives each passed their own versions but could not agree on one bill.

On Tuesday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced that he’d stop pushing the Senate-passed insider trading bill, for the sake of moving “expeditiously” to prohibit insider trading, rather than the conference committee getting bogged down in ironing out the details.

This bill is now headed towards the president’s desk for final signature.

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