Congress must pass legislation that prohibits members of Congress from owning or trading individual stocks, bonds or similar financial instruments, according to a letter sent to Congressional leaders from 20 government ethics, legal, and advocacy organizations, including CREW. At least 59 members of Congress appear to have recently violated the STOCK Act, which requires Members of Congress to disclose any stock trade made by themselves, a spouse or dependent child, demonstrating an institutional failure of members to prioritize financial transparency.
To combat this lack of accountability, Congress must create a stock trading ban with four essential provisions, according to the letter. First, there must be a blanket ban on trading or owning individual stocks, and members must not be permitted to retain any individual assets while in Congress. This prohibition must also include spouses and dependent children. Additionally, the legislation must be able to be enforced effectively: Members must be aware of specific punishment and penalties for the act’s violation, and the act must not include a high bar for intent that would make it virtually unenforceable.
CREW also calls on Congress to expand the prohibition on trading or owning individual stocks to the federal judiciary, the president and vice president, and top officials of the Federal Reserve system. The potential for financial conflicts of interest that undermine public trust in our government is not limited to the legislature, and must also be addressed as expeditiously as possible.
Comprehensive and enforceable legislation banning Congressional stock trading is essential for a transparent democracy, and is widely supported by Americans across partisan lines. Congress must act now to pass this legislation to hold themselves accountable and rebuild public trust.