Peters, Merkley, Hawley and Ossoff Announce Historic Bipartisan Agreement to Advance Legislation to Ban Member Stock Trading

Peters’ Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to Consider Legislation Later this Month

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA) announced an agreement to advance bipartisan legislation, built off of Merkley’s ETHICS Act, to ban Members of Congress, their spouses, and their dependents from holding, buying, or selling stocks. This is the first time a Senate Committee will mark up legislation barring stock trading by Members of Congress. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where Peters serves as Chairman, will consider the ETHICS Act with bipartisan changes at a business meeting on July 24th. The bipartisan modified legislation, negotiated by Peters, Merkley, Hawley and Ossoff, would immediately ban Members of Congress from buying stocks and other covered investments and prohibit members from selling stocks 90 days after enactment. The bipartisan modified legislation also requires Members of Congress, the President and the Vice President to divest from all covered investments, starting in 2027. 

“The public should be confident that federal elected officials are making decisions that are in the best interests of the American people, not their own personal finances,” said Senator Peters. “I appreciate the leadership from Senators Merkley, Hawley and Ossoff on this important issue, and I’m grateful to them for working closely with me to draft this bipartisan, commonsense agreement that strengthens accountability for the public and prevents bad actors from taking advantage of their positions for their personal financial gain. I’m committed to advancing this bill through my committee and sending it one step closer to becoming law to rebuild trust in government and give Americans peace of mind that Congress is always working on their behalf.” 

“Members of Congress are elected to serve the public—not their stock portfolios. And no member should be thinking about their personal gain when voting on bills or writing legislation,” said Senator Merkley, the ETHICS Act lead sponsor. “The ETHICS Act ends these flagrant conflicts of interest by banning stock trading by lawmakers and their families. In a huge step forward, this bill will be marked up and receive bipartisan support in committee. The whole Senate should pass this bill and do so soon.” 

“Congress should not be here to make a buck, Congress should be here to serve the people. There is no reason why members of Congress ought to be profiting off of the information that only they get and the rest of the American people don’t get,” said Senator Hawley. “This bill takes a giant step forward and I’m proud of the fact that it’s going to be voted on in Senator Peters’ committee.” 

“Three years ago, I introduced landmark legislation to ban stock trading by Members of Congress. Today, after helping lead years of intensive bipartisan negotiations, I can report progress toward this necessary reform,” Senator Ossoff said. “Georgians overwhelmingly agree: Members of Congress should not be playing the stock market while we make Federal policy and have extraordinary access to confidential information. We still have a long way to go to pass this bill, but today’s bipartisan announcement is a major step forward.” 

The modified ETHICS Act would: 

  • Ban Members of Congress, the President, and Vice President from buying and selling covered assets almost immediately after enactment. Covered assets include securities, commodities, futures, options, trusts, and other comparable holdings. 
  • Require elected officials, their spouses, and dependent children to divest covered assets beginning in 2027. 
  • Increase penalties for violations of STOCK Act disclosure requirements from $200 to $500. 

To see a summary of the bipartisan modified ETHICS Act click here.   

The bipartisan modified legislation is supported by Public Citizen, Project on Government Oversight, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Campaign Legal Center, 20/20 Vision, Stand Up America, Issue One, P Street, Accountable.US., Indivisible and MoveOn.  

Below are statements in support of the bipartisan modified legislation: 

“Members of Congress and other governmental officials have ready access to information on pending governmental actions and their potential impact on businesses. While most officials certainly do not use this inside information for self-enrichment on the stock market, the opportunity for abuse is omnipresent, and the sheer appearance of those opportunities for abuse undercuts the public’s confidence in the integrity of government. The bipartisan ETHICS Act will prohibit stock trading by these officials and their spouses and close the window for abuse. Public Citizen heartily endorses the Peters-Merkley-Hawley-Ossoff agreement to advance this commonsense legislation” said Craig Holman, Ph.D., Public Citizen. 

“The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has been fighting to end the troubling practice of stock trading by members of Congress for years,” said Faith Williams, Director of Effective and Accountable Government at POGO. “We are pleased and excited to endorse the bipartisan legislation offered by Chairman Peters, Senator Merkley, Senator Hawley, and Senator Ossoff to finally ban stock trading in Congress once and for all. By wide majorities across the political spectrum, the American people agree that congressional stock trading is unethical and presents concerning conflicts of interest. By taking this important step to both do the right thing and respond to public consensus, Senators Peters, Merkley, Hawley, and Ossoff are demonstrating real leadership. POGO applauds this effort and encourages the committee to vote in favor of moving the bill to the full Senate floor for a vote before the end of the 118th Congress. The American people deserve no less.” 

“The ETHICS Act will be an important step to restore Americans’ faith that members of Congress are working in the people’s interest, not to further their own financial interests,” said Noah Bookbinder, President of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “It is the result of years of policy development and cooperation between dozens of senators and representatives on both sides of the aisle, civil society groups, and numerous nonpartisan experts. These years of discussion and collaboration have resulted in a strong, comprehensive, and bipartisan bill that meets each of CREW’s critical policy requirements: prohibiting members of Congress from owning or trading any individual stocks or other similar financial assets, applying to members’ spouses and dependent children and including a clear enforcement mechanism. These policies are overwhelmingly popular across partisan lines, and the people are calling on Congress to act. CREW strongly endorses the ETHICS Act and supports Sens. Peters, Merkley, Hawley, and Ossoff’s effort to advance the bill through committee markup and to the floor as expeditiously as possible.” 

“Voters have a right to know that their elected officials are acting in the public’s best interest, not their own personal financial interest. This strong, bipartisan deal works to rebuild public trust by banning federal elected officials from owning individual company stocks. This will remove the cloud of suspicion that forms when voters cannot be sure if official actions are being taken for the voters’ benefit or to enhance an official’s stock portfolio. Campaign Legal Center urges quick congressional action to adopt these amendments and pass this important legislation,” said Kedric Payne, Vice President, General Counsel, and Senior Director of Ethics at Campaign Legal Center. 

“Elected representatives in Washington should be focused on serving their constituents, not boosting their stock portfolios. The updated framework of the ETHICS Act would address the inherent conflict of interest that exists when lawmakers own and trade stocks that their decisions can influence the value of, while having access to sensitive non-public information. Prohibiting the President, Vice President and Members of Congress, along with their spouses and dependent children, from actively trading stock while in office is a commonsense fix that Americans across party lines broadly support. We applaud HSGAC Chair Peters, Senator Merkley, Senator Hawley, and Senator Ossoff for their decisive leadership and call on the Congress to pass this bipartisan proposal without delay,” said 20/20 Vision. 

“Today’s bipartisan agreement is an important step towards ensuring that our elected officials prioritize the public good over personal gain,” said Brett Edkins, Managing Director of Policy and Political Affairs at Stand Up America. “Banning members of Congress and families from trading stocks would give the American people the certainty that their representatives are looking out for our best interests and not how a particular policy might affect their investment portfolio. We applaud Senator Merkley, Senator Peters, Senator Hawley, and Senator Ossoff for their steadfast leadership on this issue and reaching across the aisle to find a bipartisan solution. We look forward to seeing the bill passed out of committee.” 

“As confidence in Congress continues to erode, banning congressional stock trading is a pragmatic and commonsense ethics reform. Americans must feel certain that their elected representatives are working for their best interests, not their own personal stock portfolios. This bipartisan proposal is encouraging because prohibiting lawmakers from trading individual stocks while in office will help restore the public’s confidence in Congress,” said Issue One Founder and CEO, Nick Penniman.