Proving that insider trading in Congress can work both ways, The Wall Street Journal reports on a disturbing trend of hedge funds gaining valuable tips from lawmakers voting on and making multi-million dollar decisions. Sure, it doesn't seem like Congress can agree on much at the moment, but when decisions like the 2009 healthcare compromise was reached, it was the hedge funds that knew first--hours before the public announcement. "The news was potentially worth millions of dollars to the investors, though none would publicly divulge how they used the information," report The Wall Street Journal's Brody Mullins and Susan Pulliam. "They belong to a select group who pay for early, firsthand reports on Capitol Hill" who are, as one lawyer puts it, "buying information from members of Congress in a perfectly legal way." This "select group" of hedge funds get meetings with lawmakers and their aides through financial firms like JNK Securities who then gather commission on the subsequent deals it brokers. If that all sounds a bit shady, that's because it is. In October, The Journal reported on just how much (and it is plenty) hedge funds were willing to pay for Washington insider information. And just last month, we found out about (and were outraged) congresspersons getting rich off of business deals with their valuable information. With today's story of JNK's successful business model and lucrative hedge fund decisions--it seems like there are plenty of people making plenty of money off of that protected information. And even though there's a proposed measure to curb and possibly outlaw this type of information-exchanging, it's (unsurprisingly) been met with resistance:
Lawmakers defend the meetings. Republicans say they seek the views of hedge fund managers to help shape laws that spur investment.
Democrats say the conversations lead to better public policy because investors tell them about loopholes, inefficiencies or unseen consequences of existing laws.
The cruel irony being that our floundering economy is being run by people who are more than capable and quite comfortable playing the money-making game.