Tell us about your experiences with Marketplace. Enter To Win

Rep. Spencer Bachus faces insider trading allegations

David Brancaccio Feb 10, 2012

David Brancaccio: The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Republican Spencer Bachus of Alabama, says he’s cooperating with ethics investigators looking into evidence of insider trading. The Washington Post uncovered the investigation, even as a new law to tighten the rules on insider trading move through Congress.

Reporter Scott Higham was on the team that broke the story. Scott, thanks for joining us.

Scott Higham: Thanks for having me.

Brancaccio: So this is quite a scoop. What did you find, that there’s an investigation going on?

Higham: That’s right. Spencer Bachus has been kind of a subject of some stories recently, in the press and in 60 Minutes — along with other members of Congress — for allegations of insider trading.

But we found out that the Office of Congressional Ethics in Washington, D.C. has opened a formal investigation into the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which is probably one of the most powerful positions in the House of Representatives. He oversees the banking industries, the financial services industries.

And the allegation is that he used information that he gathered during the course of his job as a representative on Capitol Hill to personally enrich himself. And it’s a very serious allegation, and it’s an allegation that he obviously refutes and he says that he welcomes this opportunity to fight this investigation.

Brancaccio: Clear up something for me though — a ban on insider trading by politicians is not yet law on Capitol Hill. How could Bachus get into trouble for this kind of stuff?

Higham: That’s a common misnomer, I think, in Washington and around the country, that members of Congress are not subject to SEC laws regulating insider trading. Many SEC officials have testified in recent weeks that they believe members of Congress are covered by insider trading laws; that they are not allowed to trade on information that they obtain in classified briefings or briefings with agency officials at the White House, and then turn that information into trades on which they make profit.

Brancaccio: Scott Higham

Higham: Thank you David.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.