16 April 2013

NPR: Congress Quietly 'Overhauls' Law Against Congressional Insider Trading

"Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live."

Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933

Who says that the Congress cannot act quickly and in a bipartisan manner in order to pass laws.

As I recall the original reform was called the STOCK (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act) Act. It was in response to the public outrage over a news story that exposed the insider trading business in Congress.

At the time the MF Global story was also breaking and there was concern that the people might lose confidence in the financial markets.

Well, the elections are over, and the law was about to take effect, so...

How Congress Quietly Overhauled Its Insider-Trading Law
by Tamara Keith
April 16, 2013

The legislative process on Capitol Hill is often slow and grinding. There are committee hearings, filibuster threats and hours of floor debate. But sometimes, when Congress really wants to get something done, it can move blindingly fast.

That's what happened when Congress moved to undo large parts of a popular law known as the STOCK Act last week.

A year ago, President Obama signed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act into law at a celebratory ceremony attended by a bipartisan cast of lawmakers.

"I want to thank all the members of Congress who came together and worked to get this done," he said.

The law wouldn't just outlaw trading on nonpublic information by members of Congress, the executive branch and their staffs. It would greatly expand financial disclosures and make all of the data searchable so insider trading and conflicts of interest would be easier to detect.

But on Monday, when the president signed a bill reversing big pieces of the law, the emailed announcement was one sentence long. There was no fanfare last week either, when the Senate and then the House passed the bill in largely empty chambers using a fast-track procedure known as unanimous consent.

In the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., shepherded the bill through. It was Friday afternoon at 12:52. Many members had already left for the weekend or were on their way out. The whole process took only 30 seconds. There was no debate...

Read the entire story and listen to the audio portion here.

Here is what DemocracyNow had to say:
Obama Signs Bill Gutting Transparency Provisions in Insider Trading Law

President Obama has signed into law a measure critics say guts key transparency provisions from a law designed to combat insider trading by members of Congress. The new bill repeals a requirement in the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act that high-level federal officials disclose financial information online.

But, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, it also removes requirements for the searchable and electronic filing of information related to potential conflicts of interest by the president, vice president, Congress and other officials.

On its website OpenSecrets.org, the Center wrote: "Without the provisions, the STOCK act is made toothless. Insider trading by members of Congress and federal employees is still prohibited, but the ability of watchdog groups to verify that Congress is following its own rules is severely limited because these records could still be filed on paper — an unacceptably outdated practice that limits the public’s access."

Here is a story on the same overhaul from The Hill.

Jonathan Weil also wrote a story on Bloomberg saying that all this concern over insider trading was overdone and that Chuck Grassley does not understand what he is talking about. I found it to be interesting. 

I think this story may be relevant. Stock Surge Linked to Lobbyist

Washington is corrupt, and Obama is no reformer.