For Immediate Release:
Oct. 12, 2017

House Ethics Committee Releases OCE Report Recommending Further Investigation of Rep. Chris Collins for STOCK Act Violations

Statement of Craig Holman, Ph.D., Government Affairs Lobbyist, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

Note: On Jan. 5, 2017, Public Citizen asked the U.S. Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate whether U.S. Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and then-Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) used their public office for personal benefit on the market. OCE referred the matter to the U.S. House Ethics Committee. Today, the House Ethics Committee released the OCE report without signaling whether the committee will proceed with a formal investigation. OCE recommended further investigation of Collins.

The OCE report is very telling of lax ethical behavior by Collins in his stock trading activity.

The Collins scandal drives home the point that members of Congress and their staffs sit in unique positions of power that offer the opportunity to manipulate the market for personal gain – be it insider trading or promoting public policies that affect their own fortunes.

Passage of the STOCK Act in 2012 was designed to address the problem of congressional insider trading. One thing is clear: Additional steps need be taken to strengthen the act. A recent study by Public Citizen found that the act has reduced trading activity significantly by members of Congress, but there continue to be grave concerns about the conflicts of interest posed by those who remain active in the market. Members and staff tend to trade in businesses that they directly oversee, and sometimes promote legislation that impacts their portfolios.

The STOCK Act needs to be strengthened by imposing a similar conflict of interest standard on Congress that is imposed on senior executive branch officials: prohibiting members and staff from trading in businesses they oversee in their official capacities. Furthermore, disclosure reports mandated by the act of real-time trading activity once again should include senior staff and be made available online in a searchable, sortable and downloadable format. Finally, the political intelligence industry – lobbyists and Wall Street operatives who roam the halls of Congress seeking information that could affect the market – also should be subject to disclosure.