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Should lawmakers own individual stock? Some members of Congress say no


While members of Congress are barred from using nonpublic information to personally profit off the stock market, it is legal for them to buy and hold individual stocks generally. But some lawmakers want that to change.

Among them is Representative Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.), who earlier this week reaffirmed her support for banning the practice during an Instagram Q&A, saying she doesn’t personally hold individual stocks, cryptocurrencies or other digital assets.

“Because we have access to sensitive information and upcoming policy, I do not believe members of Congress should hold/trade individual stock and I choose not to hold any so I can remain impartial about policy marking,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Instagram.

“I want to do my job as ethically and impartially as I can,” she added.

She isn’t the only lawmaker against the practice. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced legislation in 2018 to ban members of Congress and White House staff from owning individual stocks, which she re-upped at the end of 2020.

In March of this year, a bipartisan bill supported by more than a dozen lawmakers in the House and the Senate would ban members of Congress from the same practice. Lawmakers would still be able to hold mutual funds or exchange-traded funds.

The latest legislation came on the heels of the revelation that several Congressional members made eyebrow-raising stock trades after receiving nonpublic information about the potential effects of Covid-19 in early 2020, before they were widely known.

Though none of the implicated lawmakers have faced any criminal charges, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) lost his position as the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and is currently under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The issue also caused controversy in the Federal Reserve earlier this year, when multiple top Fed officials came under scrutiny, including by Warren, for potential insider trading. Two officials eventually resigned as a result of the blowback, and the Fed announced in October that it would ban officials from owning individual stocks and bonds, among other changes.

The Senate passed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge, or STOCK, Act, which barred members of Congress from trading on nonpublic information, 96-3 in 2012. Burr was one of the three Senators to vote against it.

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