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Experts: STOCK Act Not Necessarily Useful

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Sen. Scott Brown introduced a bill that would prohibit lawmakers and employees from trading investments based on nonpublic information they obtain through their positions.

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"The application of the term 'insider trading' is a misnomer because those rules don't apply in these circumstances. What applies are House rules, and House rules provide that Members are to vote on all matters except for where they have a direct pecuniary interest, which is generally not interpreted to be [investment in] publicly traded companies," Brand said.

Though the House Ethics Manual acknowledges "no federal statute, regulation, or rule of the House absolutely prohibits a Member or House employee form holding assets that might conflict with or influence the performance of official duties," it goes on to state that "Members and employees should never use any information received confidentially in the performance of government duties as a means for making private profit."

Attorneys said toying with the wording and specificity of the rules to extend beyond the standard set by insider trading laws could have unintended consequences, given the number and breadth of investments held by Members of Congress.

"If you start forcing people to recuse themselves or not vote on these matters ... you're going to skew the legislative process in a serious way, which is why the rule is written the way it is written," Brand said.

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