Delayed reporting of stock transactions draws scrutiny to Rep. Rick Allen

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

U.S. Rep. Rick Allen failed to report dozens of stock trades over the past several years, a violation of ethics rules that makes him the latest member of Congress whose financial transactions have drawn scrutiny.

In financial disclosures filed Aug.10, the Augusta Republican lists dozens of trades that should have been reported months or even years earlier. Federal financial disclosure rules require members of Congress to report sales or purchases within 45 days of any transactions.

Raw Story, which was the first to report on Allen’s trading, said that he belatedly submitted 136 transactions totaling between $3.05 million and $8.56 million. Members of Congress are only required to list financial holdings within broad ranges, making it impossible to pinpoint the exact value of Allen’s portfolio.

Over the past three years, there were periodic transaction reports submitted for some of Allen’s transactions. However, the Aug. 10 document also corrects details about those previous reports in addition to disclosing many others belatedly.

The congressman’s office says stock trades and other financial transactions are made on his behalf by investment managers and without his direct input. A spokesman for Allen blamed the errors and omissions in his financial disclosures on a compliance firm that Allen has since parted ways with.

“In May of this year, Congressman Allen became aware of some reporting issues and omissions that were caused by a compliance firm he had engaged,” the spokesman said in a statement. “At that point, he hired counsel and a new compliance firm to start working with the House Ethics Committee to ensure all trades have been properly reported.”

The Aug. 10 report was filed in consultation with the House Ethics Committee, the spokesman said. Members of Congress can face fines or other discipline for violating ethics rules, although that rarely happens.

Allen’s issues come amid a wider debate over whether members of Congress should be allowed to trade stocks at all while in office.

The issue rose to prominence during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic when trades reported by then-U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both Georgia Republicans, were scrutinized. U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., have also faced questions about their portfolios.

The lawmakers were accused of making transactions after receiving private briefings for members of Congress but before the severity of COVID-19 was public knowledge. The STOCK Act, a law that went into effect in 2012, makes it illegal for members of Congress to use inside information for financial gain.

All the members who faced criticism denied any wrongdoing, and none were ever charged with violating federal laws or congressional ethics rules.

Democrat Jon Ossoff was critical of Perdue’s stock trades during his campaign to unseat him, which resulted in victory after a January 2021 runoff. Since then, Ossoff has filed legislation that would prohibit members of Congress and their spouses from trading in stocks and require them to put all assets into qualified blind trusts.