Congressional stock trading: Ban your kids, ban your wife and ban your husband too

Congressional stock trading: 
Ban your kids, ban your wife and ban your husband too

March 1, 2022

In my previous post, I talked about the impact of Congressional Trading in 2021 and the possible future of stock trading in Congress. Since my report came out there have been four new proposals to ban congressional stock trading. The issue has bipartisan support and seems to be gaining more support each week. That’s great! The less perceived conflicts of interest, the more trust we can have in our elected officials!

There has been lots of momentum to ban government officials, who are privy to non-public info or who have the power to sway the markets, from trading individual stocks. For instance, just this month, the Federal Reserve has expanded banning all officials from trading individual stocks and other assets while in office. The Fed’s list of banned assets includes stocks, bonds, derivatives, mortgage-backed securities, cryptocurrency, foreign currencies, short-selling, margins, commodities, and sector funds. The ban extends to family members too.

This post will cover how much spouses of Congressional members have disclosed in trades in 2021 and why it’s important that family members be included in any proposed ban on stock trading.

Spouses were busy trading too

In 2021, spouses accounted for about two-thirds of all investments disclosed by Congress (assuming maximum disclosed amounts in dollars, and where ownership was noted as spouse or joint). When we analyze all 2021 disclosures published as of today, this means up to $464.9M in assets were traded by spouses last year. For stocks, spouses accounted for half of all investments (or up to $168.8M) .

In the Senate, spouses accounted for just under half (~46%) of all investments disclosed in all asset types. While in the House, they accounted for around two-thirds (~67%) of all investments in 2021.

Here are the ownership breakdowns of investments in all asset types by individual Senators in 2021.

Here are the ownership breakdowns of investments in all asset types by individual House Representatives in 2021.

Let’s highlight some unusual trades that were disclosed as trades by or jointly with spouses of politicians:

  • In November 2021, Lockheed Martin won a $10.9B contract to modernize the Air Force's F-22s. House Republican Kevin Hern, who sits on the House Committee on the Budget, disclosed buying Lockheed Martin stocks in August via joint account. He bought another round, this time up to $100k, in $LMT just 2 weeks before this news.
  • Related to Lockheed Martin’s big contract: Husband of House Democrat Kathy Manning, who sits on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, bought up to $30k in $LMT stocks on October 22. Just 2 weeks before the news!
  • House Democrat Zoe Lofgren disclosed buying up to $15k in $LCID on October 13 in her joint account. In the past, Rep. Lofgren has co-sponsored legislative proposals for EV tax credits.
  • In July, when Senate Republican Tuberville finally released his late financial disclosures (a mix of transactions by himself and in his joint account), we found that he had sold up to $15k in Microsoft stocks in late June. This was 2 weeks before the $10B JEDI contract between MSFT-DOD was cancelled. At the time, Tuberville sat on the Senate Armed Services Committee privy to defense contracts.
  • The US Army first announced a $22B augmented reality deal with Microsoft on March 31, 2021 and reiterated its commitment to this partnership in October. Speaker Pelosi’s husband disclosed exercising 150 calls on March 19, 2021 at a strike price of $130.

It’s unclear whether spouses made these trades on their own or coordinated with their partners. Some disclosures note whether a family trust completed these trades on their behalf, but that’s not the norm. The problem is that we are left wondering and this contributes to an erosion in trust. With the current momentum to ban Members of Congress from stock trading, it may be best to ban spouses from trading too.

Legislative Solutions

Click here to view the table.

There are currently 4 separate proposals to ban stock trading by Members of Congress. You can read up on them here and see who’s co-sponsoring them, who’s covered in the bans, and what assets they will be banned from trading while in office.

It’s a good start!  But ultimately, we are observing politicians creating legislation to affect… politicians. I remain skeptical whether something will actually get passed. Until then, I will continue to report on their trades here at Unusual Whales.