House Speaker Pelosi: Lawmakers should be able to own individual stocks

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is singing the praises of America’s free market economy — at least when it comes to lawmakers owning stock despite potential conflicts of interest.

Asked Wednesday whether lawmakers should be banned from owning shares of individual companies, the California Democrat quickly blew off the idea.

“We’re a free market economy,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “They should be able to participate in that.”

Mrs. Pelosi made her position known on the heels of a Business Insider investigation into lawmakers’ portfolios spurred by a rash of controversial stock purchases amid the pandemic.

Business Insider found that 49 members of Congress failed to disclose sales or purchases of individual stocks, bonds and futures within 45 days of the activity as required by the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOP). The report also cited 182 senior staffers on Capitol Hill as having violated the rule.

STOP, which became law in 2012, is designed to prevent congressional insiders, including members, their spouses and staffers, from leveraging the information they’re privy to as part of their jobs to place trades and to prevent conflicts of interest.

However, the law has a weak bite: Those who violate the STOP Act are usually assessed a $200 fine.

Mrs. Pelosi is not cited by Business Insider as having violated the STOP Act.

According to her latest financial disclosure, Mrs. Pelosi’s husband executed more than 30 trades of individual stocks in 2020 and maintains a portfolio worth millions with shares in big tech players Apple, Google and Facebook, among others.

Mrs. Pelosi said she had not read Business Insider’s report but added that lawmakers should be reporting their trades.

“We have a responsibility to report,” she said.

Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, blasted Mrs. Pelosi’s response.

“I reject her rejection,” Mr. Shaub tweeted. “This is the wrong answer, and that’s obvious to the world outside the walls of the capitol [sic].”

“In an objective world, free of politics, members of Congress would be mocked for the absurdly weak ethics rules they’ve written for themselves,” he said in another tweet.

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