WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Spencer Bachus, who oversees the U.S. banking and financial services industries, is under investigation for possible violation of insider trading laws, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
The Office of Congressional Ethics began investigating Bachus, an Alabama Republican, late last year after focusing on a number of suspicious trades on his annual financial disclosure form, the Post reported, citing sources familiar with the case.
“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 Thursday by his spokesman, Tim Johnson the newspaper reported.
Bachus’s office did not immediately respond to emails or telephone messages from Reuters seeking comment on the report.
Congressional ethic investigators were examining whether Bachus violated Securities and Exchange Commission laws that prohibit individuals from trading stocks and options based on “material, non-public” inside information, the Post said, citing the individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Investigators were also looking into whether Bachus violated congressional rules that prohibit members of Congress from using their public positions for private gain, the newspaper said.
The case comes as lawmakers sought to burnish their public standing after recent polls put the job approval rating for Congress at new lows.
Bachus was among lawmakers featured in a November 13 “60 Minutes” report questioning whether some members of Congress have used what they learned from their privileged posts to make lucrative investments.
Bachus strongly denied an allegation that he made investments during the 2007-2009 financial crisis while he had access to briefings and information that was not public.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly passed new curbs on insider trading by lawmakers and other government officials despite complaints from Democrats and some Republicans that key anti-corruption provisions were dropped.
The legislation, aimed at ensuring lawmakers do not profit from non-public knowledge they gain through their positions, is the most extensive effort to clamp down on Congress’ personal business dealings in years.
The clean-government bill has attracted massive support as lawmakers seek to polish their images after nasty fights over taxes and spending soured Americans on Congress.
The bill also clarifies that lawmakers are subject to the same Securities and Exchange Commission rules that prohibit trading on non-public, or “insider,” information. While they were not necessarily excluded before, conflict with lawmakers’ rights of debate could have made prosecutions more difficult.
Reporting by JoAnne Allen; editing by Anthony Boadle and Jackie Frank