On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed questions about a new Business Insider report that found dozens of Congressmembers had violated the 2012 Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act), and argued that Congressmembers who are able to affect the rules of the economy should be allowed to trade stock because “we are a free-market economy.”
“Madam Speaker, Insider just completed a five‑month investigation finding that 49 Members of Congress and 182 senior Congressional staffers have violated the STOCK Act, the insider trading law,” a reporter said. “I’m wondering if you have any reaction to that.”
“And secondly, should Members of Congress and their spouses be banned from trading individual stocks while serving in Congress?” the reporter asked.
“No, I don’t – no, to the second one. Any – we have a responsibility to report in the stock – on the stock,” Pelosi responded. “But I don’t – I’m not familiar with that five month review, but if the people aren’t reporting, they should be.”
“Why shouldn’t they be banned?” the reporter asked.
“Because this is a free market and people – we are a free market economy,” Pelosi responded. “They should be able to participate in that.”
This week, Business Insider released a report stating that 49 Members of Congress had violated the STOCK Act. According to the report, those who violate the Act “are supposed to pay a late fee of $200 the first time. Increasingly higher fines follow if they continue to be late — potentially costing tens of thousands of dollars in extreme cases.”
However, “No public records exist indicating whether these officials ever paid the fines. Congressional ethics staff wouldn’t confirm the existence of nonpublic ledgers tracking how many officials paid fines for violating the STOCK Act. And 19 lawmakers wouldn’t answer questions from Insider about whether they’d paid a penalty. Ten other lawmakers said they’d paid their fines, but they declined to provide proof, such as a receipt or canceled check,” the report said.
A senior congressional aide who requested anonymity told Business Insider that enforcement of the STOCK Act in the House of Representatives relied entirely on “the honor system.”
Business Insider said the aide “confirmed that members did not get notifications when they were late. Instead, they explained, each member office was expected to figure out not only whether they were late but also how to pay the late fee.”
According to Business Insider, in the Senate, “staffers who file their disclosures late receive an email from the lawmaker-led Senate Select Committee on Ethics telling them to pay the late fee or to apply for a waiver, according to a copy of such an email reviewed by Insider and interviews with staffers. The Senate Ethics Committee didn’t respond to questions about how often this happens, how closely staff monitor filings, or whether senators also receive emailed notifications.”
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