…by John Stoehr
Raw Story: Imagine a world in which two things are true. One, you can make piles of cash as a direct result of breaking federal law.
Think of it as theft by other means. Two, you won’t ever get caught or be punished. Think of it as a veto on the rule of law. I’m not talking about illicit drug cartels. I’m talking about the respectable world of the very obscenely rich.
In fact, according to Businessweek, the heads of the country’s biggest corporate firms almost never face investigation and prosecution by the federal government for using insider information on the stock market. That’s despite their portfolios almost always beating the markets.
Trading on information that has not been made public is illegal. Yet it happens all the time. According to reporter Liam Vaughn, federal regulators seem to think it’s not a big deal.
Lax oversight encourages the already long-held view that “trading on sensitive information was widely considered a perk of being an executive at a publicly traded company, and that thinking seems to persist,” even among the feds.
“A growing body of research suggests that many insiders are trading well thanks to more than luck or judgment,” Vaughn wrote for the Oct. 4 issue.
“It indicates that insider trading by executives is pervasive and that nobody — not the regulators, not the Department of Justice, not the companies themselves — is doing anything to stop it.”
Vaughn reported a study by Daniel Taylor, a professor at the Wharton School. He and his co-authors found that “insiders who traded were able to avoid significant losses, particularly in instances when a company’s results ended up having to be restated.
Time and time again, ‘insiders appear to exploit private information’ for ‘opportunistic gain.’ … Cheating, they’d discovered, seemed to be everywhere.”