When Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) came before congressional investigators earlier this year to explain why he hadn’t disclosed hundreds of stock trades on time, the Long Island lawmaker who is currently running for governor had the full explanation.
Suozzi told investigators he was too busy to deal with the “routineness” of reporting hundreds of transactions — and in fact blamed the ethics office for not sending him constant reminders or assigning him a dedicated compliance staff.
“Frankly, we have a lot going on in Congress. I have a lot of other things going on. And it’s just not — ethics is a big priority for me. But… some of the wording is not necessarily something I prioritize,” the MP was quoted as saying deposition transcript.
After all, he hired someone else to trade stocks for him, so he didn’t think he needed to report every time he bought and sold shares of dozens of companies.
“It gave me the impression that because I had [broker-directed] accounts traded at their discretion, that my requirement was to complete an annual disclosure. And I did fill out an annual disclosure every year,” he told congressional investigators this year.
In his testimony, Suozzi told investigators that he left the trading to an independent broker, which he believed somehow exempted him from the requirement to show when he bought or sold shares.
For example, when Suozzi’s broker bought more than $50,000 worth of Tesla stock in March 2021—and when the broker sold the following month, so did the other members of Congress began to express concerns over the car company’s autopilot mode—Suozzi was required to disclose this information within 45 days. He did not do it.
Suotsi was one of three lawmakers fired last week when the House Ethics Committee—notorious for not taking action in all but the most egregious breaches – exposed their failure to report stock trades as innocent mistakes.
In a statement on July 29, the bipartisan Ethics Commission formally stated that “there was no clear evidence that the errors and omissions … were knowing or intentional, and that members were generally unclear about the requirements.”
When he actually released investigative documents three days later, it became clear that Suozzi remained defiant when forced to confront his mistakes earlier this year — and offered some original defenses.
During a mock meeting with House ethics lawyers on Jan. 12, attorney Omar Ashmawy asked the congressman if changes could be made to help politicians file their disclosures when they’re supposed to.
Suozzi suggested that every member of Congress should have their own ethics counsel.
“Well, I think that, you know, there is [sic] only 435 members of Congress,” Suotsi replied. “And so I think every member of Congress should have someone from the Ethics Office who is responsible for that member. Just like everyone has their staff member. And that staff member should be, you know, responsible for saying, “Hey, you know, you didn’t take your class, you didn’t turn in your reports, you didn’t do this, you didn’t do that. “”
That didn’t sit well with former House ethics lawyer Kedric Payne at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit that first called out Suozzi for her complete lack of stock trading transparency for five years.
“His explanation just doesn’t pass the smell test. This is the clearest rule. You report your stock trades,” Payne told The Daily Beast.
The applicable rules require any politician in Congress—and some officials—to report any stock trade worth more than $1,000 within 45 days. But Suozzi, like so many others in Congress, completely ignored the rules.
As of September 22, 2021, the Campaign Legal Center called him out—as well as six other members of Congress—that Suozzi noticed. The very next day, he filed a “periodic transaction report,” a gigantic 50 pages accounting for more than 400 stock transactions dating back to his first week in Congress four years earlier.
“See how fast he could do that?” Payne asked. “He didn’t have time to report, but he prioritizes trading such a large stock.”
The records show constant buying and selling of dozens of different types of stocks, from automakers like Ford and General Motors to chipmakers like AMD and NVIDIA.
Suozzi’s office did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
In his statement to investigators, the MP said he believed it was sufficient to submit year-end reports reflecting his investment portfolio. While these year-end reports reflect the shares held by a politician in total, they do not show the many purchases and sales that occur during the year, nor do they always indicate when a member bought or sold shares.
The congressman was publicly called out by the Campaign Legal Center after an exhaustive investigation by a researcher there, Sophia Gonsalves-Brown, who examined each member of Congress and compared disclosures year-over-year to identify when certain stocks seemed to disappear. The non-profit then filed a formal complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics, that anyone can do filling out a form.
But last week, that complaint was overturned when the House Ethics Committee approved any formal reprimands against Suotsi and two others who failed to file the reports on time: Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX) and Rep. Chris Jacobs ( R-NY).
The Daily Beast tried to review what excuses they had for not filing reports, but depositions were not available for either lawmaker. According to committee staff, Congressman Fallon “chose not to cooperate, thus no testimony.” Meanwhile, any formal interview of Jacobs is not publicly available because the ethics board, which is separate from the committee and is headed by former Rep. Mike Barnes, has been deadlocked on whether or not to proceed with the investigation. The House of Representatives is not subject to public records laws.
The congressional offices of Fallon and Jacobs did not respond to requests for comment.
These STOCK ACT violations by politicians come at a crucial time, when the law is under scrutiny for not going far enough to ensure that politicians do not abuse their power to personally enrich themselves with sensitive information they receive as members of Congress.
Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) asked total ban on members of Congress from stock trading. And others have joined the fight to stop politicians from profiting personally, especially since many of them get away with it. For example, the Ministry of Justice after all stopped his research how Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) sold up to $1.7 million in stock after he personally reassured the American public that the country was prepared to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
At this point, there are several House and Senate bills aimed at restricting politicians from trading stocks in one way or another. However, none have received a vote, although Democrats are quietly trying to force Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to move forward with a consensus bill.
However, lack of action has led The New York Times the editorial board to say “Members of Congress should never trade stocksand Insider released its own tool, called “Conflicting Congress”, to monitor the lack of transparency.
Meanwhile, the House ethics committee is in turmoil. The ranking Republican, Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), was killed in a two-car crash in her home state on Wednesday.