Friday, November 26, 2010

Link for the Day: Self-Promotion At Its Most Extreme

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J.—A few weeks ago, I, along with two other news assistants, was asked by one of the senior editors at The Wall Street Journal to help do research on an investigative news story he and a few reporters were working on. Apparently, a few weeks earlier, the paper had published a front-page scoop exposing Congressional aides who were trading shares of companies that they themselves were helping to oversee in their jobs; this follow-up story was intended to put some numerical/statistical meat on the earlier story's bones. So all three of us were asked to go through a mountain-sized pile of disclosure forms online and note the members who reported more than 30 trades done in 2009—because apparently, if a Congressman is doing more than 30 transactions of this sort, he/she is considered an "active investor"...and that, of course, begs the question: What are all those legislators/Congressional aides doing, legislating or investing?

It was a large task, of course, because of how many people walk the halls of both houses of Congress. So I was forced to put in overtime hours—even going so far as to come in on a Friday, my usual day off, in order to wade through these disclosure forms—in order to help get the job done. This wasn't particularly challenging work, by any means...but I didn't mind. At least, for once, I felt like I was contributing to something genuinely important: keeping power in check, and all that good, noble stuff. It certainly helped that I would be getting overtime pay for my efforts...and that, I was told, my name would be mentioned at the end of the story as having "contributed to this article." Hey, these days, I'll take whatever mention in the print paper and/or wsj.com I can get!

The story was originally supposed to be completed and published on Election Day, Nov. 2...but then, that day came and went and I saw nothing via email, online or in the paper about insider trading of any kind in Congress. Then, a couple days later, one of the news assistants who helped with the research forwarded me an internal email with an initial draft of the story, and sure enough, my name was mentioned in it as one to be noted in the story's concluding tagline. But after that, I heard nada más, and I didn't really bother to ask anyone about it.

Then yesterday, on a whim, I tried to search for a story like it on Google and see if I had somehow missed it all these weeks...and sure enough, I came across a story sporting the headline "Congress Has Active Investors" that had been published, it seems, on Nov. 6. I scrolled down the page on wsj.com, and there was my name, mentioned along with two others as having "helped contribute to this article."

So, in the interest of pure self-promotion, I'm offering a link to the story—which one can apparently access easily online without having to pay for it—here. Why should I care to promote this? I didn't help write it. And yet, actually, I'm kind of proud to have helped out on it. (Also: Hey, editors! I can help you do research! Without complaining, too! Hire me!)

Here are the first few paragraphs of that story, written by Tom McGinty, Jason Zweig and Brody Mullins:

Some active individual stock and bond investors these days aren't on Wall Street, it seems, but in the halls of Congress.

A total of 86 legislators and congressional aides on both sides of the aisle reported frequent trades of securities last year—in one case, an aide posted nearly 2,300 trades in his brokerage account—according to a Wall Street Journal's analysis of disclosure forms covering trading activity on Capitol Hill in 2009.

These 26 legislators and 60 congressional aides—roughly 2% of the total—reported an average of 170 trades last year, with half of them reporting 100 trades or more, according to the analysis.

Brokerage firms like Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab typically define an "active investor" as someone who trades an average of at least 36 times a year. They say such active investors make up a small proportion of their clients, though they wouldn't provide percentages.

There is nothing wrong with active trading, of course. And unlike many executive branch employees, lawmakers and aides don't have restrictions on their stock holdings and ownership interests in the companies that they oversee.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very impressive. Keep doing this and you are going to move up and make a name for yourself. At least your name was mentioned. Good work!

kenjfuj said...

Thank you!