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News Link • Economy - Economics USA

How ‘political intelligence’ can come from Congress itself

• Jia Lynn Yang, Tom Hamburger and Dina ElBoghdady
 On the same morning a congressional staffer told investors in a private call that odds were improving for a government decision that would help medical insurers, trading spiked in a major health-care company.

The private call, arranged by a consulting firm called Capitol Street, took place the morning of March 18. At 11:05 a.m., a certain form of speculative trading in Humana, the health insurer, jumped. That day, there was nearly 10 times as much volume as any day in the previous two weeks.

There is no evidence that the trades were in response to the Capitol Hill phone call with a top aide for Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah). But the conference call reveals the extent to which a direct pipeline of valuable political insight exists between Capitol Hill and Wall Street, one that ordinary Americans and investors do not enjoy.

Political intelligence” firms — companies that sell their analysis of federal actions to investors — have drawn much of the scrutiny from lawmakers and investigators worried about potential insider trading. Last month, federal regulators issued subpoenas to the law firm Greenberg Traurig and an analyst at the brokerage firm Height Securities in connection with another spike in trading that occurred after information was shared about the government’s health-care decision.

But it is not just boutique firms and lobbyists offering political intelligence. Congress itself has become a source of sophisticated political analysis for investors, for whom every nugget of exclusive information can translate to millions of dollars in profit.

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