Lawmakers Shuffled Their Financial Portfolios Following Meetings With Treasury, Fed During Crisis

It might not be illegal, but it's certainly sketch.

Throughout 2008, members of Congress met repeatedly with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, his successor Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke to discuss the implications of the broad financial crisis that sweeping across the globe. Within two days of those meetings, a number of Congressmen altered their financial portfolios, the Washington Post reports. In total, lawmakers shifted their finances 166 times in the days directly after those meetings.

The changes are allowed under congressional ethics rules, WaPo reports. But at a time when so many other Americans raced to rearrange their portfolios, lawmakers may have been exposed to financial information not yet available to the wider public.

That finding comes amid increased scrutiny of lawmaker access to privileged financial information they glean from doing their job. During the height of the financial crisis, administration officials and lawmakers met regularly in an aim to keeping the economy from heading into a tailspin -- a move that provided members of congress with some nonpublic information about the state of the economy.

President Obama signed the Stocks Act in April, a law that bars Congress members, federal workers and the president from trading on the nonpublic information they net on the job.

Still, a separate WaPo report found that 130 lawmakers traded in stocks that came before their committees. Nearly one in every eight trades came at a time when Congress was considering a bill related to the company or the bill was in front of the lawmakers’ committees.

In November, 60 minutes published a bombshell report revealing the extent of Congress’ ability to use insider information. After the Stocks Act was signed into law, much of the activity discussed in the segment became illegal.

“The fact is, if you sit on a healthcare committee and you know that Medicare, for example, is-- is considering not reimbursing for a certain drug that's market moving information,” Peter Schweizer, a fellow at the Hoover Institute told 60 Minutes at the time. “And if you can trade stock on -- off of that information and do so legally, that's a great profit making opportunity. And that sort of behavior goes on.”