The Wall Street Journal found in its investigation that more than 2,600 officials across the executive branch, when either a Republican or a Democrat occupied the White House, owned stocks in companies under their regulatory scope.
Federal officials often purchased stocks even as the companies actively lobbied their agencies for more favorable policies toward them.
The investigation looked at 31,00 financial disclosures from 50 federal departments and agencies—including the Treasury Department, EPA, Defense Department, IRS, SEC and the Federal Reserve—and discovered that one out of five senior officials engaged in insider trading. About 12,000 officials filed financial disclosures from 2016 to 2021.
At the Environmental Protection Agency, a senior official disclosed oil and gas purchases. As a whole, one in three EPA officials owns stock in a company regulated by the agency.
An official at the Food and Drug Administration purchased stocks on an explicit do-not-buy list. In the Defense Department, an official made five stock purchases shortly before the company won a contract with the Pentagon.
At the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department, officials traded stock in companies right before their agencies announced charges against or settlements with them.
The Treasury Department, EPA and Defense Department had some of the most egregious records, with each having more than 25 senior officials who invested in firms actively lobbying them.
Even as President Joe Biden called for more regulation against Big Tech firms, more than 1,800 federal bureaucrats owned stock in Apple, Facebook, Google, or Amazon.
Don Fox, an ethics lawyer and former general counsel overseeing federal conflict-of-interest regulations, said the investigation shows that officials “clearly violate the spirit behind the law, which is to maintain the public’s confidence in the integrity of the government.”
He said Americans must feel that the executive branches wisely uses its “immense power and influence over things that impact the day-to-day lives of everyday Americans, such as public health and food safety, diplomatic relations and regulating trade.”