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STOCK Act’s Pace Worries Experts

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Louise Slaughter — an original co-sponsor of the STOCK Act six years ago — urged her colleagues “to reinsert language to regulate a growing K Street industry and make the STOCK Act as strong as it was when I first introduced it.”

Differences between the Senate and House versions of legislation banning insider trading by Members and staff have experts worried about what provisions will make the final cut as the two chambers rush to pass the bill and claim the ethical high ground.

The Senate-passed legislation contained provisions dealing with “political intelligence-gathering activities” and the prosecution of public corruption that were absent from the version House Republican leaders released late Tuesday evening.

The two provisions have become sticking points in a largely bipartisan push to curb insider trading on the Hill, with lawmakers criticizing both House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) decision to remove the language and the wording of the provisions passed by the Senate.

The political intelligence “provision was extremely broad, and its impact would have raised more questions than it answered,” Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring said.

But even some Republicans disagreed. “It’s astonishing and extremely disappointing that the House would fulfill Wall Street’s wishes by killing this provision ... why not propose a solution instead of scrapping the provision altogether?” asked Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who proposed the political intelligence language in the Senate’s bill.

“I urge my colleagues to ... reinsert language to regulate a growing K Street industry and make the STOCK Act as strong as it was when I first introduced it six years ago,” Rep. Louise Slaughter
(D-N.Y.), a co-sponsor of the original bill, said Wednesday on the House floor.

For years, Slaughter’s STOCK Act languished until a “60 Minutes” episode aired Nov. 13 that highlighted alleged instances in which Members used knowledge about legislative activity to make profitable trades. The broadcast prompted a flurry of Congressional support for the effort — within weeks, almost 100 Members had signed onto the bill and a version was introduced in the Senate.

Now, experts are worried that the speed with which the camps are working to resolve the differences between the two versions of the legislation could result in language that goes beyond the intent of the original bill.

“It remains my view that insider trading prohibitions have always applied to legislative and executive branch officials. The reasoning proffered for the STOCK Act is that it affirms that those provisions apply. To the extent that this is all the bill would be, fine. But I think it goes beyond that,” said Robert Walker of the law firm Wiley Rein.

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