House Speaker Pelosi Defends Congressmen's Rights to Trade Stock While in Office Amid Calls for Ban

© REUTERS / ELIZABETH FRANTZU.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to reporters during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 15, 2021.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to reporters during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 15, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.12.2021
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The speaker's remarks came after widely reported violations of the 2012 STOCK Act, which is designed to keep politicians' trading in check, but every year members of Congress' financial-disclosure reports reportedly reveal that lawmakers may have conflicts of interest or advantages in stock trading by being insiders.
In spite of the bipartisan support for a ban on members of Congress buying and holding individual stocks while in office, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday that politicians should be able to trade while in office.
When asked if the ability to benefit from trades could constitute a conflict of interest, the speaker flatly refused to endorse a ban on individual stock trading.
"We’re a free-market economy," Pelosi said at a press conference. "They should be able to participate in that."
But the speaker acknowledged that legislators must adhere to regulations governing public disclosure of trading.
"If people aren’t reporting [stock trades], they should be," Pelosi added.
On the other side of the camp, earlier this month, Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York restated her support for prohibiting lawmakers from engaging in the practice of trading stocks. According to her, because lawmakers have access to knowledge that the general public does not, as well as the capacity to develop and implement policy, members of Congress should refrain from purchasing and selling individual stocks and other assets.
Moreover, lawmakers should invest in index funds, Ocasio-Cortez claimed.
Despite the reports of alleged stock trade infractions, Pelosi's attitude was viewed as dismissive by some.
According to reports, citing Pelosi's most recent financial disclosure report, her husband owns millions of dollars in assets, while the speaker owns nothing in stocks. Paul Pelosi's investments reportedly include Amazon and Apple stock, which is worth between $5 million and $25 million each. Other assets she reportedly disclosed included stock options valued between $1 million and $5 million in Google's parent firm, Comcast shares worth between $1 million and $5 million, and Visa stock worth between $5 million and $25 million.
Pelosi's husband is a businessman who owns Financial Leasing Services Inc., a venture capital and investment firm. According to the US media, he was placed numerous wagers on high-profile corporations that his wife is meant to supervise, such as Amazon, Apple, and Google, over the years.
However, the speaker has consistently maintained that she has no input or prior knowledge into her husband's trading actions and that she herself does not own any shares.
According to an Insider report this week, which is based on the analyzed current financial statements of all lawmakers, the top 15 members of Congress had a combined net worth of at least $1.3 billion, accounting for half of the entire estimated wealth in Congress.
The documents, which cover the year 2020, a year in which the world's wealthiest people amassed billions of dollars, revealed that the top five of the wealthiest lawmakers include four Republicans holding the first four positions in terms of the most wealth, with Democrat Dianne Feinstein closing the top five with a net worth over $96 million.
The richest congressmen according to the latest financial disclosures in ascending order are Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida ($113 million), Rep. Darrell Issa of California ($115 million), Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas ($125 million) and Senator Rick Scott of Florida ($ 200 million).
The disclosures and the calls for ensuring the ban on holding and trading stocks come amid a slew of scandals involving federal lawmakers and government officials reportedly involved in questionable dealings during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Securities and Exchange Commission is currently investigating Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina for trades he made in the early days of the pandemic. Burr had reportedly stated that all of his trades were based on news reports, not non-public information.
Following a stock trading scandal in 2012, the STOCK Act was passed with bipartisan backing. Despite the fact that many members continue to trade openly, no one has been convicted under it in the almost ten years since it was adopted.
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