Biden Campaign Bans Staff From Trading Stocks Without Approval

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The Biden campaign is forbidding staff from trading individual stocks without approval from the campaign’s general counsel, according to an email sent by the Democratic nominee’s top lawyer to staff on Monday afternoon.

Joe Biden’s general counsel, Dana Remus, wrote in an email to staff obtained by Bloomberg News that the campaign is updating its employee handbook to “ensure that staff do not even inadvertently trade on nonpublic information.” The rule says staff cannot trade stocks “without advance written approval of the General Counsel,” and it will remain in effect until Dec. 14, 2020, the date the Electoral College votes.

A stock trading ban is unusual for presidential campaigns, and experts say Biden is likely the first major candidate to institute such a policy. Hillary Clinton, the last Democratic nominee, did not have a similar policy in place, and Donald Trump’s campaign has not announced a similar policy. The president’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The Biden campaign said the new policy was part of an effort to follow “the highest ethical standards.”

“Donald Trump is making millions of dollars off of taxpayer money steered to his company,” spokesman Bill Russo said in a statement. “As we gear up to officially become the Democratic nominee, we took a moment to ensure that the policies of our campaign represent the highest ethical standards.”

Ethics experts said they could not point to any other political candidate who has barred staff from making individual stock trades and that the policy marks a dramatic contrast to the Trump administration, which has been criticized for flouting ethics rules.

“Usually we see a winning president begin to impose ethical restrictions during a transition, but I think this is unprecedented,” said Paul S. Ryan, the vice president for policy and litigation at Common Cause, a nonpartisan government watchdog. “The Biden campaign’s policy is a breath of fresh air after more than three years of a Trump administration that has been mired in conflicts of interest.”

Larry Noble, the former general counsel to the Federal Elections Commission, praised the new policy, saying Biden campaign staff are likely to be privy to information that could impact stocks.

“It does help prevent insider trading and it gets them used to the idea that if they do get into government they have to abide by these rules,” he said.

The updated policy comes as members of Congress have been criticized for trading stocks at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The Department of Justice is investigating trades made by Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina just before the stock market tumbled as the virus crashed the economy. Investigations into trades made by Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Senator Dianne Feinstein of California have been dropped.

In the same memo, the Biden campaign also instructed its staff members to delete TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media application, from their personal and work phones because of security and privacy concerns. Remus told staff to “refrain from downloading and using TikTok on work and personal devices.”

The Biden campaign has no official presence on the application, which politicians and security experts have raised cybersecurity concerns about. Both the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee have warned their candidates and staff about using the Chinese-owned social media application.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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