A legislator says he is worried that his colleagues are not bound by the same rules prohibiting "insider trading" that apply to people in private life and business.
Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, called a news conference on Wednesday to say there are currently no laws or rules prohibiting members of the Minnesota Legislature from making stock trades or land deals based on confidential information.
He cited no such cases where this has happened in Minnesota. But he said an expose on the news program "60 Minutes" caused him to look for such a prohibition applying to Minnesota legislators, and he could find none. As a member of the House Ethics Committee, he said he will seek to have both houses adopt rules prohibiting the practice.
The television program raised questions about stock trades involving some prominent Congressional leaders, and asked if the officials were relying on non-public information. (The officials denied the allegations.) The show raised the profile of a long-dormant bill sponsored by Rep . Tim Walz, D-Mankato. His bill would bar members of Congress and their staffs from trading on confidential information and increase reporting requirements for their stock transactions.
"Literally in Minnesota, if you're a judge, it's illegal to engage in insider trading," Atkins said. "If you're the governor, or work for the governor, it's illegal to engage in insider trading. If you're a CEO or a business person or a private citizen, it's illegal to engage in insider trading. But if you are a Minnesota state legislator, you can engage in insider trading, and it's perfectly legal.''
The crime of "Insider trading" is defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission as buying or selling stocks using important information that is not publicly known about the stock. Generally, it involves an "insider" with a fiduciary duty to the company and its securities, who either makes the trade or provides a "tip" to someone who does.