Congress agrees on insider trading ban... for themselves

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, and U.S. Sen. Scott Brown participate in a during a news conference on Congressional insider trading on January 31, 2012 in Washington, DC. The insider trading bill has now passed through Congress and awaits a signature from the president.

Jeremy Hobson: Now to Washington, where lawmakers are about to make new rules -- for themselves. They've passed a bill that bans members of Congress from trading stocks based on non-public information, and the president says he's going to sign it.

Marketplace's Scott Tong has the details from Washington.


Scott Tong: Here's the problem: if a lawmaker is about to pass bill with subsidies to help a company he or she can make early trades. Not any more.

Here's Norman Ornstein at the American Enterprise Institute.

Norman Ornstein: A lot of members who have been fairly active in trading stocks are going to step back from it.

Congress left out an item about brokers and consultants who get inside information at the Capitol. It's called political intelligence -- they turn around and give it, or sell it, to hedge funds. The provision stripped out would have had them disclose those activities, the way lobbyists do.

Ornstein: I frankly don't see a huge amount of difference between those who are lobbying and those who are going up and gleaning information that's used for profit.

Speaking of profit, it's unclear if lawmakers invest any better than the rest of us. They outperformed the market in the 90s, but more recently did 2 to 3 percent worse.

In Washington, I'm Scott Tong for Marketplace.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.

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