A bipartisan bill to ban stock trading by members of Congress, senior members of the executive branch, and their spouses and dependents was introduced Thursday by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
Between 2019 and 2021, a third of members of Congress traded stocks or other financial assets, and thousands of their stock trades posed potential conflicts of interest. Gillibrand’s bill, the Ban Stock Trading for Government Officials Act, would ban these trades and make sure elected leaders and senior federal officials are putting the interest of the American public first. The bill bans stock trading, stock ownership, and blind trusts; imposes heavy penalties for executive branch stock trading; requires reporting of federal benefits; creates additional transparency in financial disclosure reports; and increases transaction report penalties under the original STOCK Act.
The Ban Stock Trading for Government Officials Act includes the following provisions:
Bans stock trading and blind trusts
- Prohibits members of Congress, the president, vice president, senior executive branch members, and their spouses and dependents from holding or trading stocks.
- There is no exception for blind trusts.
- For members of Congress, failure to comply means a heavy penalty of at least 10 percent of the value of the prohibited investments.
Imposes heavy penalties for executive branch stock trading
- Executive branch officials must disgorge profits from covered financial interests to Treasury.
- Automatic Special Counsel fine of not less than the value of the covered investment that was purchased or sold in violation of the ban or up to $10,000, whichever is more.
- The Office of Special Counsel may refer the case to the attorney general and recommend additional civil action if the case is “comparatively substantial in monetary value or extraordinary in nature.”
Requires reporting of federal benefits
- Requires members of Congress, senior congressional staff, the president, vice president, and senior executive branch employees to report any time they, a spouse, or a dependent applies for or receives a benefit of value from the federal government.
- This includes loans, agreements, contracts, grants, and payments. It does not include salary, compensation or tax refunds.
- It would require reporting that includes payment type, recipient name, date and amount.
- A penalty of $500 would be imposed for failure to file.
Creates transparency in financial disclosure reports
- Requires public, searchable databases of personal financial disclosure reports and filings reporting of any financial transactions as required by the STOCK Act.
Increases STOCK Act transaction report penalties
- Increases penalty ($200 to $500) for failing to file STOCK Act transaction reports.
There are a number of stunning statistics that demonstrate why the legislation is urgently needed.
- 1 in 3: Members of Congress who traded stocks or other financial assets from 2019 to 2021.
- 1 in 7: Members of the 117th Congress who violated the STOCK Act by failing to properly report their stock trades.
- 97: Members of Congress, or their spouses or dependents, who traded in companies affected by their committees from 2019 to 2021.
- 3,700+: Stock trades reported by members of Congress from 2019 to 2021 that potentially posed conflicts of interest.
- 17.5%: Average amount by which members of Congress’ stock portfolios outperformed the S&P 500 in 2022.
- Over 1 in 5: Senior federal officials who held stock in companies that were lobbying their agencies from 2016-2021.
- 11,600: Trades reported by senior federal officials in March 2020 (as COVID hit) – far more than in any other month from 2016-2021.
- 240: Senior federal officials at health agencies and the Pentagon who owned stock in drug, manufacturing, and biotech companies that won federal contracts related to COVID-19.
- 60+: Senior federal officials who reported stock trades in companies shortly before their departments announced enforcement actions against those companies from 2016-2021.
The vast majority of Americans believe stock trading should be banned for members of Congress and top executive branch officials. According to a recent poll by Morning Consult/Politico, at least 63% of Americans support banning stock trading for members of Congress and their families, as well for the president, vice president and top officials at federal government agencies.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant. It is critical that the American people know that their elected leaders are putting the public first – not looking for ways to line their own pockets,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The landmark Ban Stock Trading for Government Officials Act bars members of Congress, executive branch officials and their families from holding or trading stocks, increases disclosure requirements and imposes harsh penalties on violators. This bill is the most substantive bipartisan effort to date and I’m going to work hard to get it signed into law.”