Tester: Banning Congressional insider trading ‘should be an easy lift’

Senator amended bipartisan bill to add more transparency, financial disclosure

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today pushed a bill banning members of Congress and their employees from using knowledge gained from their Congressional work for personal financial benefit.

Tester, speaking on the floor of the Senate, urged his colleagues to support the bipartisan Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act.  The bill specifically prohibits members of Congress and their employees from conducting stock market trading based on inside information. 

Tester, who cosponsored an earlier version the STOCK Act with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said lawmakers should be playing by the same rules as everyone else.

“The STOCK Act brings much-needed accountability to Congress and should be an easy lift,” Tester said.  “I don’t care if you work on Wall Street or in Congress – you should not be using privileged information to enrich yourself.”

The bill provides additional clarity necessary to ensure that U.S. Representatives, Senators and their employees are prohibited from trading stocks based on privileged information such as the status of legislation, hearings, and pending regulations.

Tester, a leading voice for transparency and accountability, also specifically added a bipartisan provision to the bill that requires financial disclosures to be made publicly available on a searchable, electronic database. 

“Full transparency means the public has the right and ability to see our records,” Tester said on the Senate floor.  “In a time of hyper-partisanship, this is an opportunity for both sides to work together on a bill we sorely need.”

The STOCK Act will:
• Affirm that members of Congress and congressional staff are not exempt from insider trading prohibitions and make it clear that they are subject to the same insider trading rules as others,
• Reaffirm the duty of trust and confidence that members of Congress have toward the public,
• Ensure prompt disclosure of Congressional trades and mandate public, online access to financial disclosure forms

Tester introduced the STOCK Act in November after media reports raised the possibility of members of Congress using knowledge gained from their work to make business transactions.

The STOCK Act is online HERE.  The Senate is expected to debate the bill this week.

Tester’s floor remarks are available below.


Floor Remarks
U.S. Senator Jon Tester
January 30, 2012


Mr./Madame President. This afternoon the Senate will have an opportunity to consider banning insider trading by members of Congress and their staffs.

Insider trading is illegal for everyone in America. There's no doubt about it.

But when it comes to the information that folks in Congress learn before the general public learns it, there are no clear cut rules. That is unacceptable.

Folks in Congress clearly have advance knowledge of which bills and issues Congress will consider.  They know how those bills will affect basic goods and services. And often the legislation we pass impacts how well a company does on the stock market.

Good men and women work for Congress and I have deep respect for my colleagues. Most come to the Senate with good intentions and carry out their daily responsibilities without thinking about using information they learn for personal financial gain.

And that’s why banning insider trading should be an easy lift.

The fact that members of Congress and their staffs are allowed to buy and sell stocks based on privileged information is incredible to me. 

Congress has historically low approval ratings from the America people.  They believe many in Congress don’t represent them.  And have forgotten what it means to be a normal American.

Most folks would assume that Congressmen and senators already can’t trade stocks based on information they get in their jobs.  But it turns out that this may not be true.  And that’s just one more example for why the American people have lost faith in this institution.

As elected officials, it is our duty to regain the trust of the American people.   We have an obligation to be as transparent and accountable as possible.

That’s why I was the first member of Congress to post my public schedule online for everyone to see. My constituents can look at my schedule every day to see who I met with and which hearings I attended. 

Now we have the opportunity to help regain trust in this body by bringing our own rules in line with the rest of America. 

By adding transparency and accountability, the American people can know that we are working on their behalf without considering personal financial gains.

This bill includes a provision Senator Begich and I sponsored to ensure that the annual financial disclosure forms filed by members of Congress are available electronically. 

As with most transparency, full transparency means the public has the right and ability to see our records.  In the twenty-first century, there is no reason we can’t do this right away.

Letting those disclosures sit in a filing cabinet somewhere in the capitol complex is not transparency.

Putting the files online in a searchable format is.

In a time of hyper partisanship, this is an opportunity for both sides to work together on a bill we sorely need.  There is not a Democratic or Republican angle to this. 

Every elected official should want to make sure that the rules we are held to are consistent and transparent. And in line with the rest of the nation.

In fact, this is as non-partisan as a bill can be. With ideas from Senators Gillibrand and Scott Brown but carried by Senator Lieberman, this bill covers each section of the political spectrum.

This is a straight-forward bill that is long overdue. 

The STOCK Act will be a step towards ensuring that when people run for Congress or come to work for Congress, they are doing so because they want to work on behalf of the American people, not for their own benefit.

I call on my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to vote yes on the STOCK Act so we can start restoring faith in Congress.

I yield the floor.