The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday the results of a deep investigation into the stock trading of federal government officials, revealing for the first time that top government bureaucrats frequently buy and sell shares in companies whose financial health will be affected by agency decisions.
A Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that thousands of officials across the U.S. government’s executive branch disclosed owning or trading stocks that stood to rise or fall with decisions their agencies made.
Across 50 federal agencies ranging from the Commerce Department to the Treasury Department, more than 2,600 officials reported stock investments in companies while those companies were lobbying their agencies for favorable policies, during both Republican and Democratic administrations. When the financial holdings caused a conflict, the agencies sometimes simply waived the rules.
The Office of Government Ethics, which oversees the conflict-of-interest rules across the executive branch, is “committed to transparency and citizen oversight of government,” said a spokeswoman.
The WSJ found that more than 200 senior officials at the Environmental Protection Agency disclosed that they owned personally, or a family member owned, shares in companies that were lobbying the agency for rule changes, including oil and natural gas companies. Defense Department officials and their families were also found to own shares in aerospace companies, defense contractors, and even Chinese companies the department once considered blacklisting. The report indicates that some federal employees and their families even actively traded around significant regulatory actions.
The revelation of what amounts to federal officials, or their family members, trading on insider information comes as a bipartisan group of lawmakers is pressuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to support proposal to strengthen the prohibitions on Members of Congress and government officials trading on insider information.
Pelosi’s personal fortune has grown to $140 million since 2008 as the result of seemingly prescient stock market trades by her husband, Paul.