The Senate today, by an overwhelming vote of 96-3, passed the STOCK Act, a bill crafted in response to a 60 Minutes investigation showing that members of Congress had personally profited from insider information. Most notably, House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) made tens of thousands of dollars trading on information he received during private economic briefings at the height of the 2008 economic crisis.
However, the bill that the Senate adopted is the same one that the House passed last month, not a stronger version that the Senate had written earlier and approved by a huge margin. The earlier version included a provision, championed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), that would have required Washington insiders who sell intelligence to corporate America to register as lobbyists. Grassley, who was one of the three votes against the bill, today took to the Senate floor to blast Congress for adopting the watered down House version:
On Tuesday the Republican Majority Leader of the House and the Democrat [sic] Majority Leader of the Senate worked together to thwart the will of 60 Senators and 286 Members of Congress. This is not the kind of bipartisan cooperation we need.
I won’t ascribe motives to anyone in this body, but I know that today’s actions only serve the desires of obscure and powerful Wall Street interests and undercut the will of an overwhelming majority of Congress. [...]
There are over 2,000 people working in the completely unregulated world of political intelligence, or political espionage as I call it. Right now, they are celebrating. They are celebrating because they know that its business as usual. They can continue to pass along tips they get from Members of Congress, Senators and staff and no one will be the wiser. They pass along these tips to hedge funds, private equity firms and other investors who pay them top dollar.
The lobbyists get rich. Wall Street traders get rich. But the American people lose.
The weaker House version of the bill was drawn up by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who had earlier blocked the GOP from moving an anti-insider trading bill at all. Last month, Grassley reacted to the House removing his political intelligence provision by saying, “it’s astonishing and extremely disappointing that the House would fulfill Wall Street’s wishes by killing this provision.”