House Republicans’ Insider-Trading Bill Accused of Catering to Insiders

House Republicans Tuesday offered their version of the proposed Senate bill to ban insider trading on the part of lawmakers, but basically eliminated an amendment that would have required “political intelligence” firms to register and disclose activities as lobbyists do, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The House version calls instead for a study to be made of the political-intelligence industry, which is made up of hundreds of onetime congressional aides, lobbyists and other Washington insiders who  look for tips concerning government plans that could have an impact on stock prices.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.), who introduced the bill, said it removed “provisions that would have made the bill unworkable or raised more questions than they answered.”

Cantor offered praise to the two House Democrats who have spent the last six years trying to pass such legislations. But Reps. Louise Slaughter (D., N.Y.) and Tim Walz (D., Minn.) were unhappy with the changes to the bill.

Slaughter issued a statement saying the House bill was drawn up “in secret, behind closed doors,” adding, “How ironic—insiders now appear to be writing a bill meant to ban insider trading.”

While the Senate version has already passed, 96-3, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I., Conn.), a key supporter of the Senate version, which has already passed, 96-3, indicated he would support the changes because they could be seen as protecting free-speech rights.

Support for the legislation took off after a recent segment of “60 Minutes” that detailed how current and former members of Congress invested in the stock market using information they received as part of their official duties, the Associated Press reports.  The show reported that in 2008 the husband of Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the House, invested in a Visa initial public offering at about the time that the House was debating legislation that would reduce fees on credit cards. Pelosi denied any wrongdoing. Two years later, the bill passed, with Pelosi’s support.

Under the proposed bill, lawmakers could not take advantage of their positions to invest in IPOs.

Jon Lewin is a Feature Writer for the Compliance Exchange and Wall Street Job Report. He is also a columnist for the Faster Times and a blogger for Subway Squawkers. Lewin’s work has appeared in the New York Daily News, Huffington Post and Digital Innovation Gazette as well as the “Cambridge Companion to Baseball” and the Daily News history essay collection “Big Town Big Time.”

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