Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston) did pretty well for himself in 2021, financially speaking. According to a new report from Unusual Whales, Crenshaw’s trading netted the fifth-highest rate of return among members of Congress, narrowly edging out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A total of 35 members of Congress got returns greater than the SPDR S&P 500 Trust ETF (SPY), essentially meaning they beat the market.
Crenshaw has gotten in hot water over stock trading before. In March of 2020, he made half a dozen buys while the country went into lockdown and Congress debated and wrote the largest economic stimulus package in history. This included purchasing stock in Boeing, a company that successfully lobbied for billions of dollars from the CARES Act. Crenshaw was on the House committees for Budget and Homeland Security at the time. More significantly, Crenshaw failed to disclose these trades for months, which is a violation of the STOCK Act.
Unusual Whales did not say exactly how much Crenshaw made from trading but did show him just slightly ahead of Pelosi, who made an average return of 44% trading stocks and options (in comparison SPY’s return in 2021 was 26%).
Unusual Whales is an online platform that provides information to traders. One of its main focuses is tracking how members of Congress trade stocks, options, cryptocurrency, and other financial assets. Traders can use this information to mirror the financial strategies of politicians and some TikTok investors are doing just that. In fact, Unusual Whales has created the “Nancy Pelosi ETF” to make it easier for anyone to replicate the House Speaker’s financial strategy.
Stock trading by members of Congress has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of the pandemic, when multiple senators sold millions in stock just before the COVID-19 crashed the market, some of whom were publicly downplaying the virus at the time. This brings up obvious concerns about insider trading and conflicts of interest in Congress. Indeed, 54 members failed to properly report their financial transactions as mandated by the STOCK Act last year, according to Business Insider. One of the more egregious cases was Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) buying stocks and options in Chinese e-commerce giant while publicly criticizing American investment in China.
Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA) have introduced legislation banning members of Congress from trading individual stocks and other securities. Under the Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act, members and their families would be required to put their stock portfolios in a blind trust.
While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support prohibiting Congress from trading stocks and other financial assets, Pelosi remains opposed to the idea.