The New York Times has reported that nearly 100 current members of Congress have bought or sold stocks related to their work in office.
One of those identified is Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who sits on the U.S. House Ethics Committee and the Financial Services Committee. The Times found that he has reported trades in 276 companies and has 34 possible conflicts of interest — one of the highest tallies among the 97 members of Congress listed.
Phillips’ trading chiefly involved stocks and bonds “issued by more than two dozen banking companies,” according to the Times. Phillips, a Democrat, is said to have sold his shares of four banking institutions shortly before their executives testified at a Financial Services Committee hearing in April 2019.
He also traded shares of Wells Fargo stock as the committee investigated the bank in 2020 over alleged “management failures” and “consumer abuses.”
Phillips defended himself on Twitter after the report emerged, stating that he’s placed his financial assets in a “blind trust” and claiming to be only one of five members of Congress to have done so.
“I don’t trade stocks and haven’t had contact [with] my advisors since 2018,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “My assets are in a ‘blind trust,’ meaning I can’t see what is bought and sold on my behalf — one of only a handful in Congress to have taken that step. I believe it’s time all members of Congress do the same.”
A spokesperson told the Times that Phillips began transferring his assets to the blind trust with the help of a law firm in January 2020, but most stocks hadn’t been transferred until July 2021, and as of this August some assets still had yet to be transferred.
“Congressman Phillips has voluntarily held himself to the highest ethical standards, acting against his own financial interests in doing so,” the spokesperson told the Times.
Phillips’ stock transactions were the subject of an ethics complaint in 2020. As an heir to the Phillips Distilling Company, he is among the wealthiest members of Congress.
Phillips is not the only member of Congress from Minnesota who may have possible conflicts of interest. Rep. Angie Craig’s son traded shares of Lyft and Ford while she was serving on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
But a spokesperson told the Times that Craig was not aware of her son’s trading, adding that she supports a ban on members of Congress and immediate family trading or owning stock.
Furthermore, the husband of Sen. Tina Smith owned shares of Dexcom and Insulet, two companies that manufacture insulin equipment, as she spearheaded efforts to lower the cost of insulin. Smith told the Times, however, that she has no role in or knowledge of her husband’s “investment decisions.”