It is no accident that a growing number of Senators and Congressmen are supporting an end to insider trading among Washington lawmakers. Given the dismal approval ratings of the nation’s politicians, anything that can raise ratings is at least being considered. But don’t count on the passage of this bill.
Back in May of this year, in my column (“Gordon Gekko should run for Congress”), I pointed out that our nation’s elected officials were not subject to the insider trading law that regulated everyone else. As a result, individual politicians and their cronies have profited substantially year after year from the knowledge they picked up in closed door hearings, subcommittees and the like.
This access to insider information has become even more important over the last few years as more and more market moving events are triggered by governmental actions. Just consider how government pronouncements in the U.S. and Europe over the last six months have caused huge market swings.
Efforts to change this law have been going on for years with scant success. News stories such as the Wall Street Journal articles on the subject last year and last month’s “60 Minutes” report on the scandal have increased public awareness. I suspect that if their approval ratings were not so low (congress has a historically low 9% approval rating) the politicians would simply ignore the heat, as they have done in the past, and continue to profit at our expense.
A month ago only nine congressmen supported the bill that would require elected officials to report all trades over $1,000 within 90 days. After the 60 Minutes show, that number increased to 180 and more than 20 Senators have since jumped on the band wagon.
Today, a cozy relationship exists between politicians, political intelligence firms and big players on Wall Street. There is nothing illegal in a congressman or senator divulging sensitive information to a political intelligence firm which in turn sells that information to Wall Street. The more market-sensitive information that is passed on through the pipeline, the more a particular politician can demand in future campaign contributions from the beneficiaries of that information.
This bill would make it illegal for individuals and “political intelligence firms” to continue that practice. It would also require firms and individuals involved in “political intelligence” to register just like any other federal lobbyist.
Call me a cynic, but I doubt this bill will pass. Not only are lawmaker’s potential for using their office for personal gain at stake, but this bill will also jeopardize the pipeline to campaign funds from those special interests we hear so much about.
In a different world, all my readers and everyone in America who cares (the 99%), will call or e-mail their representatives in Washington and demand he or she vote for this bill when it comes up for a vote next week. It is your chance to change a lot of what is wrong with Wall Street right now. It’s your move, America.