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Posts Tagged ‘Insider Trading’

Doug Casey on Insider Trading… Why Politicians Can Do it and You Can’t

Posted by M. C. on October 21, 2021

Doug Casey: As I said before, the only way you can end the practice is to get the government 100% out of the economy. Let me reemphasize this point. The government is supposed to have essentially zero to do with the economy. But today, it’s the main thing that government does.

by Doug Casey

International Man: What exactly is insider trading? Is it inherently unethical?

Doug Casey: The term insider trading is nebulous and as open to arbitrary interpretation as the Internal Revenue Code. A brief definition is to “to trade on material, non-public information.” That sounds simple enough, but in its broadest sense, it means you are a potential criminal for attempting to profit from researching a company beyond its public statements.

Is the use of insider information ethical? The government says, “No!” I say, “Absolutely, whenever the data is honestly gained, and no confidence is betrayed by disclosing or using it.” The whole concept of inside information is a floating abstraction, a witch hunter’s dream, and a bonanza for government lawyers looking to take scalps.

When the SEC prosecutes someone, it can cost millions of dollars in legal fees to defend against them. And as with most regulatory law, concepts of ethics, justice, and property rights never even enter the equation. Instead, it’s a question of arbitrary legalities.

Whether someone is prosecuted of insider trading is largely a question of who he is. A maverick researcher and a powerful government official will tend to get very different treatments. It’s also a question of the psychology and motives of the prosecutor. Insider trading is generally a non-crime that can be used in a Kafkaesque manner by upward-mobile prosecutors.

Insider trading should, at best, be the basis of a tort suit by a company if a board member betrays a trust. It shouldn’t be a crime prosecuted by the State.

Any ethical problem shouldn’t be about how information is used or who profits but whether it’s acquired honestly. Whether information is “inside” has no moral significance as long as it is honestly acquired. The market is a register of information, and impeding the free flow of knowledge in any way makes it less efficient. A morass of regulation only opens the door to real corruption. This is nothing new. Tacitus correctly said “The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the State.”

In addition, the very concept of insider trading is ridiculous from a practical point of view. Someone always gets the information first. If an announcement is made, the people in the room who hear it first act on it first. By the time it’s published, it’s old news. It’s physically impossible for everyone to get information at the same time.

Insider trading has never cost shareholders a penny. Other actions taken by management insiders have, however, cost shareholders many billions. Regardless of the rhetoric, the name of the game in hostile takeovers and proxy battles is often management versus the shareholders. But that’s a story for another time.

International Man: In the past, politicians in Congress and elsewhere have allegedly engaged in insider trading with impunity.

Meanwhile, the penalties inflicted upon regular citizens can be severe. The maximum criminal penalty for insider trading is 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine.

What is your take on this?

Doug Casey: Congress is in a unique position to treat itself well. They control almost unlimited amounts of both power and money. Politicians really are a favored class.

The people in control of making regulations and printing money can tip off their pals subtly. This naturally lends itself to corruption. Congress critters know who’s going to get the big contract. They don’t have to buy or sell a stock themselves; a discreet tip to a trusted crony is safer. The Federal Reserve sets interest rates and controls the amount of money and credit entering the markets; they’re in a position to take advantage of this situation as well. And I have no doubt they do.

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