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Insider trading in Congress

The U.S. Capitol Building is pictured at dusk in Washington, D.C., on July 29, 2011.

Jeremy Hobson: In other Washington news, CBS's 60 Minutes reported on Sunday that Senators and Representatives have personally benefited from stocks they bought or sold based on information they learned in their jobs. On Wall Street, you'd call that insider trading.

But as our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale reports there's nothing illegal about it for members of Congress.


John Dimsdale Lawmakers know before anyone else about government budgets, taxes and regulations that can dramatically change stock prices.

Maybe that's why senators' stock portfolios routinely outperform the market by 12 percent, according to Georgia State University's Alan Ziobrowski. He says insider trading laws don't apply to Congress.

Alan Ziobrowski: It's not illegal at all. There's absolutely nothing that prohibits members of Congress or their staffs from trading on information they pick up.

Zibrowski admits it would be difficult to police a ban on some congressional stock trading. But to give the rules teeth, he says members of Congress should have to immediately disclose what stocks they're buying and selling.

Ziobrowski: If the head of a banking committee starts unloading lots and lots of his bank stocks, the marketplace should be privileged to that information and it'll make the market more efficient.

Ziobrowski hopes the new momentum behind reforms will help get rid of the perception that some lawmakers vote to benefit their own stock portfolios.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.
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