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STOCK Act becomes law

Elizabeth Wynne Johnson Apr 4, 2012

Stacey Vanek Smith: Today President Obama will sign the STOCK Act — that is the “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge” Act. It says Capitol Hill has to play by the same insider-trading rules as other industries do.

From Washington, Elizabeth Wynne Johnson has more.

Elizabeth Wynne Johnson: Members of Congress have unique insight into changing laws, regulations and who stands to win or lose. Until now, these privileged players have been exempt from insider trading laws that would prevent them from using that information to score unfair profits in the stock market.

John Wonderlich says the STOCK Act changes that. He’s with the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for government transparency.

John Wonderlich: They’re always going to be able to abuse the rules a little bit. But the least we can do is make it clear that certain kinds of behavior aren’t acceptable, or certain things are illegal.

What the STOCK Act doesn’t do is impose any such rules on so-called “political intelligence” operatives. That’s Beltway-speak for individuals and firms who collect information on Capitol Hill in order to sell it to investors.

Wonderlich: These are people that use their access to information to make a profit and to benefit people who are looking to find out what’s going to happen and often trade on that information.

Accountability experts say the “political intelligence” industry is overdue for some transparency. But they won’t get it from the STOCK Act.

In Washington, I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson for Marketplace.

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