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Insider Trading Inside the Beltway

Stephen M. Bainbridge

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

June 30, 2010

UCLA School of Law, Law-Econ Research Paper No. 10-08

A 2004 study of the results of stock trading by United States Senators during the 1990s found that that Senators on average beat the market by 12% a year. In sharp contrast, U.S. households on average underperformed the market by 1.4% a year and even corporate insiders on average beat the market by only about 6% a year during that period. A reasonable inference is that some Senators had access to – and were using – material nonpublic information about the companies in whose stock they trade.

Under current law, it is unlikely that Members of Congress can be held liable for insider trading. The proposed Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act addresses that problem by instructing the Securities and Exchange Commission to adopt rules intended to prohibit such trading.

This article analyzes present law to determine whether Members of Congress, Congressional employees, and other federal government employees can be held liable for trading on the basis of material nonpublic information. It argues that there is no public policy rationale for permitting such trading and that doing so creates perverse legislative incentives and opens the door to corruption. The article explains that the Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution is no barrier to legislative and regulatory restrictions on Congressional insider trading. Finally, the article critiques the current version of the STOCK Act, proposing several improvements.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 37

Keywords: insider trading, Congress

JEL Classification: K22

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Date posted: July 2, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Bainbridge, Stephen M., Insider Trading Inside the Beltway (June 30, 2010). UCLA School of Law, Law-Econ Research Paper No. 10-08. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1633123

Contact Information

Stephen Mark Bainbridge (Contact Author)
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )
385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States
310-206-1599 (Phone)
310-825-6023 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.professorbainbridge.com
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