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Show HN: See the stock trades your representative is making
90 points by tcarambat1010 15 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments
Hey HN,

I am the creator of senatestockwatcher.com and im finally happy to say that the same data that is filed from the House of Representatives is now live for everyone to watch, report against, and use.


When Senate Stock Watcher was released, the US was in the midst of an election year and after the COVID market crash the SEC had opened some investigations on 3 Senators for insider trading allegations. My interest in politics and finance lead me to build that website, but the number one question I always got was "where is the houses' data?"

The House of Reps exclusively files their transactions reports in PDF forms that vary wildly in quality and format, so OCR was not a trustworthy and tenable solution. There is a supporting platform for the community to contribute to this dataset so that it can eventually be 100% complete.

To date, I have transcribed over 690 transactions. There are literally hundreds of thousands more to go. If you would like to help on this front - you can also go to: https://contributor.housestockwatcher.com

This data is available, totally open, in both JSON and CSV format so that people more savvy than me can uncover trends and patterns.

So, apparently, on average senators do not beat the market as would be expected if this was rampant. So maybe they're not using insider information too much. Either that or, even given their privileged information, they still cannot turn that information into good trades.

I imagine it's more of the latter than the former. Stocks rarely follow rationality in the short term.

A study that talks more in depth about this was made last year: https://www.dartmouth.edu/press-releases/senators-stock-pick...

They know they are being watched. If they have information that would lead to good trades they can hardly use it themself. But certainly they can give it to "friends". That may not directly make them rich but can significantly improve donations if you know what I mean and politician donations are often way more than a salary.

If you make all your friends rich you either will be rich too or you have terrible friends.

Whoa, the press release does not match the results. Scroll down to Tables 2a,2b on pp. 26-27 of the NBER paper.

These are their 1 year horizon alpha's and tstats against Fama French 3 factor:

          alpha     tstat
   Long   6.5%      6.6
   Shrt   5.0%      3.7
Those numbers are economically and statistically significant.

Now I want to know if there's an ETF that tracks transactions by senators.

By the time their trade is disclosed, the inside information it's based on is probably public.

That could be an excellent way to finance the transcription and contribute to having this.

OT: I'd be fine with a law that made Senators and Representatives count as a 10% shareholder for any public company whose stock they own and so subjecting them to rule 16(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

That rule, which applies to officers, directors, and 10% shareholders of public companies, makes it so that any "short swing" profits from trades have to be given to the company. A "short swing" profit is profit from buying and selling shares of the company, or from selling and buying shares of the company, if the buying and the selling is less than six months apart.

The idea is that officers, directors, and big shareholders should be thinking about the long term good of the company rather than concentrating on short term swings in stock value that they might immediately personally profit from.

16(b) enforcement is brilliant. The people it applies to are the same people that are required to publicly disclose trades, and if you violate it any other shareholder has standing to sue to require you to give the profits to the company. Furthermore, to get that standing they only have to be a shareholder when they file suit, not when the violation occurred. Finally, if they win not only do you have to disgorge your short swing profits, you have to pay the plaintiff's attorney fees.

And so the SEC doesn't have to lift a finger to enforce it. There are attorneys who get the public disclosure data and look for violations, then buy a share of stock in the company and sue.

Even worse from the violator's point of view: if there is more than one purchase or sale of stock in a six month period, they just match up the highest sale price with the lowest purchase, then the second highest sale price with the second lowest, and so on, regardless of order.

For example, if you bought at 100, a month later sold at 90, a month later bought at 80, and a month later sold at 70, you have in reality lost 20. But you've got a 10 short swing profit from that buy at 80, sell at 90, which is all 16(b) cares about.

I really wish I could look up my representative and see their trades.

Now, I understand that this might require a lot more data than you have access to. But, to be honest, that was the first thing I was going to do.

Agree, the title "See the stock trades your representative is making" led me to believe I could select my representative and see what they are trading. There doesnt appear to be an obvious way to search or filter by representative.

Well this is fascinating. Thanks for making it. The SEC probably already does this kind of analysis but it makes me wonder if you could look at historical data to see which trades represented the highest gains or most relevant timing.

From there you could to try to identify which congresspeople engage in the most insider trading.

What's funny...

You can be an entry-level Investment Banker in New York. Yeah you make good money but you're still a nobody worker drone. You are restricted to basically some ETFs if you're lucky.

But if you can be an extremely influential politician, and you can do literally anything (including options trading) so long you declare it. Then your declaration doesn't even become public for months!

I don't think restricting trading is really the answer. Just set term limits.

I’m skeptical the SEC is doing this kind of analysis. It would first require Congress itself to tell the SEC to police Congress and I’m skeptical Members if Congress would want that.

Note, this data is delayed by up to 45 days

Is it possible to filter by rep? Is there any information about subcommittee membership as well? I know I can probably find the latter info somewhere, but it would be a nice-to-have here.

You really need to also look at family members, (spouse, children, etc). Many times these trades are through their spouses, as well.

Great idea, this is how we follow the money. In accounting firms that work with companies whose stock is traded on SEC-regulated markets, all close family members of the employees of the accounting firm are subject to SEC regulatory oversight.

In other words, if you do accounting or other advisory work for a publicly traded company, and your spouse, child, or sibling owns any interest the same company, you are held accountable for anything fishy.

It should be the same for elected representatives. In fact, they should be held to a higher standard than the rest of us.

Very cool. I looked into this myself a couple years ago and the fact that the transaction data was in PDFs and that across years and representatives the format of the PDFs was all over the place, I gave up. Great to see someone else took it more seriously than I did and put the work in

What do you see as the primary use-case for this, especially in light of new proposals to limit congressional stock trading?

For example, is there a plan to surface the names and faces of the top congresspeople based on their suspicious activity? And then automatically tweet about it or something?

Related from a year ago:

Senate Stock Watcher - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22834524 - April 2020 (239 comments)

Do you think you'll setup a way to cross reference tickers between the two? E.g. what stocks are most traded by Congress but not the House, which are traded most frequently by both, etc.

>most traded by Congress but not the House,

That's a strange way of saying the Senate. I get the desire for a simple cross report without having to run the same report from either site. I think your typing fingers got ahead of the full thought.

Ha! Interesting the different dialect chosen between posting this on WSB and here!

Either way, great work. I saw your post earlier today (?) on WSB and was impressed then and I’m impressed now.

Neat! FYI the blog link in the footer of https://housestockwatcher.com/ is broken.

FYI the labels in the card (e.g. "Combined median volume of asset sales + purchases.") are not wrapped

The link shows a blanco page.

The page render as a white page with no content

I use is the latest Firefox

A returns leaderboard on this would be so awesome.

blank page over here

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