Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski is hit with two congressional ethics complaints following Insider's report that he didn't disclose dozens of stock trades

  • Insider reported that Malinowski appears to have violated the federal STOCK Act.
  • Campaign Legal Center, and Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, filed separate complaints.
  • The complaints are directed to the House’s Office of Congressional Ethics.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A pair of nonprofit watchdog organizations on Monday filed separate congressional ethics complaints against Rep. Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat, following revelations by Insider that the congressman failed to disclose dozens of stock trades worth at least $671,000.

The two groups — the Campaign Legal Center and Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust — asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Malinowski, whose office last week described the disclosure failures as an “oversight” that the congressman is working to correct.

The federal STOCK Act requires members of Congress to publicly list their personal stock sales and purchases within 30 to 45 days of making them, depending on the kind of trade. Malinowski had never filed such disclosures, known as “periodic transaction reports,” until “very recently,” his office acknowledged to Insider. 

“When members of Congress trade individual stocks and fail to disclose those trades, they break the law and diminish the public’s trust in government,” attorneys Kedric Payne and Delaney Marsco of the Campaign Legal Center wrote to the Office of Congressional Ethics. “Rep. Malinowski repeatedly failed to comply with this requirement for over two years. He describes this omission as an oversight even though he is an experienced investor and former political appointee who has been subject to the STOCK Act for over five years.”

Malinowski’s conduct “is especially damaging to citizens’ confidence in elected officials,” Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust Executive Director Kendra Arnold wrote to the Office of Congressional Ethics.

“It appears Malinowski was secretly trading stocks related to a national crisis, which prevented the public from evaluating whether his transactions were based upon information he obtained from his official position,” Arnold added.

Malinowski’s stock trades in 2020 included more than two dozen purchases and sales during the first several weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a five-page spreadsheet his office provided Insider on in early March after a reporter asked about his stock activity.

The lawmaker’s representative said the congressman’s financial advisor, not Malinowski himself, oversees the day-to-day management of his stock trades.

As the pandemic first gripped the United States, Malinowski on March 19 sold up to $15,000 worth of stock in the New York-based Chembio Diagnostics Inc., an infectious-disease testing company whose offerings include COVID-19 testing kits.

‘Rep. Malinowski cannot excuse his failure’

Malinowski made at least $671,000 and as much as $2.76 million worth of trades during 2020, according to the spreadsheet his office provided to Insider. Members of Congress are required to report the value of their stock assets only in broad ranges, which makes a precise total elusive.

The spreadsheet contains stock-trade information that, as of Monday morning, still does not appear within the US House’s public database of congressional financial disclosures.

Malinowski’s office could not immediately be reached for comment Monday morning. But Malinowski spokesperson Amanda Osbourne told Insider on Wednesday that “this was not an effort on the part of the congressman to conceal any trade activities.” 

Malinowski on Friday told Jonathan Salant of NJ Advance Media: “There’s no good reason other than putting off difficult paperwork in the crunch of my responsibilities. I own that. I did it late and that was a mistake. I’m not in any way disputing that.”

The Campaign Legal Center’s complaint argued that Malinowski’s service last decade as an assistant secretary of state, coupled with his mandatory ethics training as a freshman member of Congress and widespread publicity surrounding recent congressional stock trading scandals, should have made him aware of STOCK Act disclosure requirements.

“For these reasons,” Payne and Marsco wrote, “Rep. Malinowski cannot excuse his failure to report with a claim that it was a mistake.”

Representatives from the Office of Congressional Ethics — an independent, nonpartisan body empowered by the House to investigate accusations of misconduct — could not immediately be reached for comment.

Tom Rust, the chief counsel for the House Committee on Ethics, to which the Office of Congressional Ethics reports its findings, last week declined to comment on Malinowski’s stock trades.

It is legal for members of Congress to buy and sell individual stocks. But several current and former lawmakers have recently found their stock trades subject to significant scrutiny — or worse.

They include former Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, former Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala of Florida, and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.

Former Rep. Chris Collins, a New York Republican, briefly served time in federal prison following an insider-trading scandal that ended his political career. Then-President Donald Trump pardoned Collins in December.

“I am concerned with the trend of representatives not taking seriously their duty to file financial disclosures,” Arnold told Insider. “Representatives are well aware of their duty to inform the public and yet they conveniently fail to do so.”

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