U.S. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus said he has been cleared by a congressional ethics office of allegations he improperly traded securities after he and other lawmakers were briefed by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke during the 2008 financial crisis.
Bachus said in a statement yesterday that he was informed the six-member Office of Congressional Ethics voted unanimously at an April 27 meeting to close its inquiry.
“The OCE’s unanimous dismissal of these false allegations is a welcome conclusion to a destructive and disruptive media- generated assault,” Bachus, an Alabama Republican, said in the statement.
Bill Cable, a spokesman for the Office of Congressional Ethics, didn’t immediately return a reporter’s e-mailed request for comment.
The allegations helped spur the enactment of legislation that bars members of Congress or staffers from trading on private information received by Congress. It also bars members from participating in initial public offerings of stock. President Barack Obama signed the measure, the Stock Act, or Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge, S. 2038, into law last month.
The independent Office of Congressional Ethics reviews allegations of ethical impropriety against House members. It has the authority to refer charges to the House Ethics Committee for disciplinary action.
The office opened its probe late last year after CBS Corp. (CBS:US)’s “60 Minutes” television program reported in November that Bachus, 64, and other members of Congress bought stock in companies while legislation that might affect those businesses was being debated.
Two former Securities and Exchange Commission chairmen, Republicans Roderick Hills and Harvey Pitt, came to Bachus’s defense in a March 4 op-ed column in the Birmingham News.
“Attending a briefing on the declining economy and what to do about it -- known to anyone breathing and alive, and unrelated to specific companies (or classes of companies) -- cannot create ‘insider trading’ liability,” they wrote. “In the meeting of policy makers to consider responses to our economic meltdown, no one discussed information related to any specific company (or class of companies) that was useful to someone seeking to obtain an advantage in connection with securities transactions.”
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