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Stock Act: Penalty Does NOT Fit the Crime

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 5, 2012 7:53 AM |

America only had to wait for a 60 Minutes expose and more than half a decade to witness our elected representatives pass a meaningful piece of legislation addressing insider trading on Capitol Hill. If those two basic facts do not speak volumes as to the quality of character of those governing our nation, then let’s navigate further.

President Obama’s signing of the STOCK Act outlawing insider trading in Washington is heralded as a major achievement. If that is the case, then we are holding the bar exceptionally low.

I will grant that our nation is better off having the STOCK Act than not, but let’s hold the applause. As a further reminder that there are two sets of standards in our nation, let’s review how ‘justice’ is defined within the realm of insider trading. 

First off, I STRONGLY believe that those engaged in insider trading are common criminals stealing from all of us. They not only steal money from investors, but they also steal what might otherwise be defined as the integrity of the market. I believe the penalties for such theft should be very aggressive. The justice dispensed is ultimately the only real deterrent as others assess whether the penalties for insider trading truly fit the crime. On the heels of Uncle Sam having been asleep at the wheels of justice on Wall Street for far too long, at least now the Department of Justice is waking up and imposing Greater Penalties for Insider Trading:

Sentences for insider trading have been on the rise since the Justice Department began its latest crackdown in 2009 that started with the arrest of Raj Rajaratnam. The past year had the highest sentences ever given for this type of crime, including the 11-year prison term for Mr. Rajaratnam.

Under proposed amendments to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines announced last week, recommended punishments for insider trading are likely to increase in response to Congressional pressure to ratchet up sentences for securities fraud. That will put even more pressure on defendants to cooperate with the government in the hope of receiving a reduced penalty.

Section 1079A(a)(1)(A) of the Dodd-Frank Act requires the United States Sentencing Commission to review its guidelines for securities fraud offenses “in order to reflect the intent of Congress that penalties for the offenses under the guidelines and policy statements appropriately account for the potential and actual harm to the public and the financial markets from the offenses.” That is another way of telling the sentencing commission to bump up the recommended sentences for crimes like insider trading.

About time and long overdue. With the passage of the STOCK Act outlawing insider trading atop Capitol Hill and the newly enhanced sentencing guidelines for this heinous behavior, which Congressman will be the first to take the perp walk? Anybody want to venture a guess on this front?

What’s that? Hold on, you say? Heh…?

In merely another indication that the charlatans masquerading as our elected officials do NOT “get it” and that a double standard truly exists in our nation, let’s look at how justice is defined for insider trading in Washington. Upon further review of the STOCK Act we witness that this legislation:

Expands Pension Forfeiture for Corrupt Membersthe STOCK Act requires forfeiture of federal pension if a Member of Congress commits one of several corruption offenses while serving as an elected official.  Current law forfeits a Member’s pension for conviction of offenses committed while serving in Congress.  The STOCK Act expands forfeiture to apply to misconduct by Members committed in other federal, state and local elected offices and adds further federal crimes, including insider trading, for which forfeiture will be required.

No perp walk? No hard time? No potential for meeting Bubba and becoming his ‘friend’?

Correct me if I am wrong, but if our elected officials are presented with the opportunity of making a killing on some insider trading activity and only face the loss of their pension then the rewards may actually outweigh the risks and the penalty definitely does NOT fit the crime. What do Nancy Pelosi, Spencer Bachus, John Boehner, and the rest of them have to say about this?

Time for Steve Kroft and 60 Minutes to pay these jokers another visit.

Larry Doyle

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I have no affiliation or business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. The opinions expressed are my own. I am a proponent of real transparency within our markets, our economy, and our political realm so that meaningful investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

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