September 26, 2022

Democrat seeking to replace outgoing Senator Patrick Leahy nailed with ethics complaint over stock market trades

Politicians have influence over people in high places, including corporations where they invest. That often creates an ethics conundrum, especially for those who have broken promises with their trades.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) has been slapped with an ethics complaint for failing to disclose his wife’s ExxonMobil trades in a timely manner, Breitbart reported. What’s worse, the lawmaker grilled the company’s CEO in a congressional hearing after he had knowledge of the transaction.

Welch, who was previously accused of insider trading, had vowed not to own individual stocks back in 2020 and recently renewed that pledge. “Rep. Welch has decided to no longer own individual stocks,” Arianna Jones, Welch’s communications chief, told Business Insider in a statement Monday.

The oil shares in question were actually owned by his wife, Margaret Cheney, who had inherited them from her late mother. The trouble for Welch is that he not only failed to disclose the sale of the shares in a timely manner, but he had direct interaction with the head of ExxonMobil with knowledge of his wife’s previous stake in the company.

During an Oct. 28 House Committee on Oversight and Reform Hearing, Welch was tough on ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods. He charged that the company was not being forthright with the public, especially in relation to its role in climate change. This fact led the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust watchdog organization to file an official complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics.

The complaint maintained that the Vermont Democrat violated the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act of 2012 by being a week late to report the sale of any stock over $1,000. His wife’s ExxonMobil shares were sold for $6,238 in September but he didn’t disclose the sale until mid-November.

The revelations about Welch’s infraction were reported as part of a broader Insider piece about the hypocrites in congress. There’s been renewed scrutiny on Welch in particular as he vies for Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy’s seat after the elderly Democrat announced he would not seek reelection.

Politicians need to tread lightly when it comes to maintaining ties with large corporations. Welch may not have committed a major infraction, but all of this was too close for comfort.

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