House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., is being investigated by an independent ethics agency regarding allegations that he may have violated insider-trading laws.
The Office of Congressional Ethics opened its probe in late 2011 after identifying “numerous suspicious trades” on Bachus’ annual financial disclosure forms, individuals familiar with the case told The Washington Post in a story published Thursday.
The allegations come just as the House of Representatives has passed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge, or STOCK, Act. The act, which has won sweeping bipartisan support, is designed to prohibit insider trading by members of Congress. It passed, 417-2, in the House on Thursday and will be reconciled with a Senate version approved last week.
“The Office of Congressional Ethics has requested information and I welcome this opportunity to present the facts and set the record straight,” Bachus said in a statement issued to The Post by his spokesman, Tim Johnson.
If the House’s independent ethics body finds reason to believe Bachus acted improperly, it would refer the matter to the House’s traditional Ethics Committee, which would then have 45 days to announce a course of action, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal. However, the head of the congressional ethics body would neither confirm nor deny it is conducting an investigation.
In January, Bachus proposed legislation, H.R. 3549, the Congressional Blind Trust Act of 2011, which would subject members of Congress to new limits on how they trade equities and manage their wealth. The act would require lawmakers to place all their stocks, bonds and other securities into a blind trust that would be managed without their consent as long as they are Congress members.
Bachus recently announced that he will likely leave his post when a new Congress convenes in January 2013 due to term limits, and he may attempt to aggressively push through his committee a redraft of his bill calling for a self-regulatory organization for advisors.
However, it has been speculated that the insider trading probe may force the Alabama Republican to step down sooner.
Financial advisors watch the congressman’s activities closely because of his powerful position as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Recently, he has been involved in a debate over whether advisors should be overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission or a self-regulatory organization, and whether the fiduciary duty rule will affect the SRO outcome. AdvisorOne reported on Jan. 31 that industry officials soon anticipate a redraft of Bachus’ bill calling for an SRO for advisors.