The investigators analyzed more than 31,000 financial disclosure forms from over 12,000 senior career employees from the executive branch of the federal government. The forms dated between 2016 and 2021 encompass both Democratic and Republican administrations. (Related: Biggest financial crime in America's history: Billions of taxpayer dollars STOLEN from COVID-19 relief programs.)
The financial disclosure forms include data on about 850,000 financial assets and more than 315,000 trades reported in stocks, bonds and funds by federal officials, their spouses or dependent children. The forms also showed that over 2,600 officials in 50 federal agencies and their families have disclosed owning stock in companies that have lobbied the agencies and offices that they work with. They represent more than one in every five senior federal executive officials.
"These trades represent many potential conflicts of interest – and explicit conflicts of interest that agency officials seem to have simply swept aside and 'waived the rules for,'" wrote Sharon Zhang for Truthout. "These stock holdings reveal that not only do officials have personal financial interest in (the) companies they are responsible for regulating, but also that they may be trading stocks at seemingly opportune times."
Of the over 2,600 government officials involved in alleged insider trading, more than 1,800 of them reported owning or trading at least one major tech stock from Facebook, Google, Apple or Amazon.
More than 60 officials from five agencies, including the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, reported trading stock in companies shortly before their departments announced actions against those companies, including enforcement actions like charges and settlements.
In the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly one in three officials reported owning investments in companies lobbying the agency. On average, these officials held up to $2 million in shares in fossil fuel companies between 2016 and 2021.
In the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), career executive Malcolm Bertoni disclosed that he and his wife owned stocks in 70 different pharmaceutical, diagnostics, medical device and food companies regulated by the agency in 2018 and 2019. This includes Pfizer and Takeda Pharmaceutical.
The FDA prohibits employees, their spouses and children from investing in companies that are "significantly regulated" by the agency. All 70 companies were on the prohibited list.
In the Department of Defense, officials from the Office of the Defense Secretary collectively owned between $1.2 to $3.4 million in stocks and other investments in defense contractors or companies for every year studied by the Wall Street Journal's investigation.
The executive agency with the most insider trading allegations is the Department of the Treasury, with nearly 50 percent of all federal officials who filed public financial disclosures from 2016 to 2021 reporting investing in stocks of firms that lobby the agency.
Across the federal government, more than 400 officials owned or traded stocks from Chinese companies, including the White House and Department of State officials. Their investments averaged between $1.9 to $6.6 million each year.
Learn more about government corruption at Corruption.news.