Weekend Update: talk about insider trading and disaster profiteering!

Picture of a guillotine with the words “Your money and privilege have their limits.”

(click to embiggen)

Once again it is time for one of my Saturday posts where I talk about news stories that either broke after I finished this week’s Friday Five, or has had new developments since it was linked, or otherwise bears sharing now rather than later. Along with more commentary from me than usually accompanies the Friday Five posts. And oh, we have have some juicy news today! Let’s go!

Let’s begin with this: These Senators Sold Millions Worth of Stock After Private Briefings on the Impending Coronavirus Crisis . First, I want to point out that the original headline talks about Republican Senators, but even in the initial breaking story, there was one Democrat, as well. So I fixed the headline. So, Senators receive a number of classified briefings about the looming pandemic, and several of them, just coincidentally, sold off millions of dollars in stock in industries likely to take a hit. At least one of them doing so while simultaneously writing editorials and going on the various news shows to insist that the country was ready to handle any such emergency and that everything was going to be fine.

One of those Senators has been trying to defend herself by claiming that all the sales were done without her knowledge, but the problem is that her husband, who just so happens to be the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, also unloaded a bunch of stock after the briefings. Most of the others are trying to defend themselves by claiming the sales conform to the law… And it is true that the law gives Congresspeople a lot of leeway to do this sort of thing: An Invitation to Corruption – As long as lawmakers are allowed to trade individual stocks, disaster profiteering is always a risk.

The short version is that members of congress are allowed to buy and sell stock based on public information that they learn during the course of their work so long as the transactions are reported within 30 days. Which is very lenient, because the definition of public information is broad. As congress people receiving briefings, the information they received is often contextualized in a way that the information isn’t available to the general public. In other words, they have taxpayer-funded help sorting out the signal from the noise, while the taxpayers are left with the noise…

However, the information received in classified briefings shouldn’t count as public information. So I think a few of these guys might actually suffer consequences. I mean, even Tucker Carlson, who normally defends any crime and outrage every single Republican commits has called this one out: Tucker Carlson demands a Republican senator either explain his stock sell-off or resign – “There is no greater moral crime than betraying your country in a time of crisis.”.

I nearly spit my coffee all over my keyboard when I saw the word “moral” coming out of Carson’s mouth. But, even a broken clock is correct sometimes!

And as the story developed House members, Senate aides traded stocks in early days of coronavirus. We know that it is a lot more members of Congress involved.

Part of the reason it is so outrageous that the law is so lax on this is because not only do members of congress have access to information that the public doesn’t, but they write and vote on laws that funnel tax dollars into various efforts. In private business, insider trading laws recognize that employees of publicly-traded companies have information before the public does, and therefore are in a position to sell their own stock at times just before information that will greatly devalue that same stock once it is know. Such trades are effectively stealing money from the people who are buying those stocks. So it’s illegal for employees of private companies to buy or sell the stock when they are in possession of information the public doesn’t yet have. Executives, who not only have a lot more information than the average employee but can also change policies within the company that effect the value, are limited to very narrow windows, beginning a number of days after quarterly earning reports are published, and ending a short time later.

Members of Congress have no such limitation.

It isn’t just corrupt politicians we have to worry about profiteering off of a national crisis. A lot of other rich a-holes are similarly morally bankrupt: Wall Street Journal Types Wonder Aloud If Nation’s Health Is ‘Worth’ The Economic Hit – Not making that up. Stephen Moore of The Heritage Foundation and his former colleagues at The Wall Street Journal are “asking the question” if COVID mitigation measures are “worth” the economic hit..

If you must have the sanctity of human life explained to you, maybe you shouldn’t be allowed to be in charge of anything. At all.

Let’s end with this: Rachel Maddow: Media Needs to Stop Airing Trump’s Lie-Filled COVID-19 ‘Fairytale’ Press Briefings —

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About fontfolly

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and nonfiction. For more than 20 years I edited and published an anthropomorphic sci-fi/space opera literary fanzine. I attend and work on the staff for several anthropormorphics, anime, and science fiction conventions. I live near Seattle with my wonderful husband, still completely amazed that he puts up with me at all.

3 responses to “Weekend Update: talk about insider trading and disaster profiteering!”

  1. Phil Strawn says :

    This under the table crap has been happening for decades. Senators do not become wealthy on their salary. Insider tips, good ole boy winks and slaps on the back are part of what Washington is about. These politicians should be prosecuted for their actions, as well as their stock brokers, who most likely benefited from the same information. Alas, as always, I feel nothing will happen to them. After-all, if you are an elected official, you are above the law. Good post, good read.

    • fontfolly says :

      Not to disagree, but I do think it’s important to realize that most people who get elected Senator already are wealthy. Similarly, most who get elected to the House of Reps either are wealthy themselves or come from very well-to-do families. Which is a problem in and of itself, in addition to how easy it is to enrich themselves while there…

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