Congress finally passed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act) nearly a half-decade after the bill was first introduced. After the CBS News program “60 Minutes” reported that several members of Congress were using insider information gleaned from their positions for personal gain, President Barack Obama called for a bill banning insider trading in his State of the Union Address on January 24, 2012. A revised version of the STOCK Act passed in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 96-3 on February 2, and the bill passed in U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 417-2 on February 9. Now the differences between the two versions need to be reconciled before the legislation can be sent to Obama for the president’s signature.
The passage would be a welcome, but somewhat painfully overdue action for the thousands of people suffering from diseases related to asbestos exposure, such as mesothelioma. That is because asbestos played a large role in exposing how unethical some members of Congress acted in handling reparations for people harmed by asbestos exposure.
In 2005, then-President George W. Bush specifically called for limits on asbestos lawsuits, saying “frivolous” cases were clogging court systems and bankrupting companies. Later that year, the Senate once again tried to draft a bill to end asbestos lawsuits in exchange for a trust fund to compensate victims. On November 15, 2005, companies that had used asbestos and that been involved in litigation for years, such as USG Corporation, W.R. Grace and Crown Holdings, experienced increased trading activity unlike peer companies in the same sector. The following day, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced there would be a full Senate vote on a bill that would create a $140 billion government-backed trust fund for liability claims against asbestos-using manufacturers. Some estimates had said it would take more than $250 billion to cover all claims because asbestos diseases can take decades to develop. It was later revealed that a “political intelligence” firm had tipped off clients to Frist’s undelivered speech regarding asbestos liability.
The increased attention Congressional insider trading has garnered over the past three months not only called attention to the indecent ways in which some senators and representatives actually profited from a practice that is illegal for every other American, but also illustrated how mesothelioma and other asbestos-related disease victims were short-changed in the interest of protecting big business.
Our Dallas litigation attorneys certainly hope that the exposure of this political intelligence-for-profit exchange spells an end to members of Congress reducing the liability of negligent companies. Additionally, we also hope the attention can increase sympathy for the victims of asbestos exposure and their families after years of having their credibility questioned and their rights ignored.
Stanley Iola, LLP – Dallas litigation lawyers