Five of Tennessee's congressional representatives and its junior senator, Bill Hagerty, traded corporate stocks while in office, according to an investigation by The New York Times. Several members traded in industries directly related to their congressional committee work, presumably buying and selling stocks ahead of information available to the general public.
The Times released the investigation, which provides details on 97 total members of Congress who traded stocks relevant to their committee work, early this week. Because government action directly influences companies and markets, the practice of legislators trading stocks has drawn increased scrutiny for its potential to personally enrich elected officials. Earlier this year, Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff introduced the Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act, which would set controls for trading by members of Congress and their spouses.
While sitting on the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. John Rose dumped Wells Fargo stock months before the committee censured the company for consumer abuse and management failures. The scandal tanked the stock by more than 50 percent in early 2020. Rose reported Wells Fargo holdings between $100,000 and $250,000 per congressional financial disclosures. Rose also traded Bank of America and Pinnacle, a bank based in Nashville, while serving on the committee.
The investigation cited Rep. Diana Harshbarger, a Republican representing East Tennessee, as one of Congress’ most active traders. Reports reveal Harshbarger bought or stock in sold 149 companies and, at times, failed to disclose trades properly.
Sen. Hagerty and Reps. Green and Fleischmann all denied having firsthand knowledge of their trading portfolios to the Times. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis, the sole Democrat from Tennessee named in the investigation, told the Times that he deliberately took losses on Boeing stock to avoid the public perception that he used inside knowledge for monetary gain. He recently sold Boeing stock amid an investigation into the company’s 737 Max plane by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, of which he is a member.