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Rep. Peter Welch said Thursday that he would no longer be investing in individual stocks following a VTDigger report last month that he had profited from an investment in a Covid-19 testing firm.
In addition, Welch said he would support legislation barring members of Congress from investing in individual stocks.
In 2018, Welch opposed such a ban. Last month the congressman said he was “very open” to considering a prohibition and Thursday he said he supports it.
“I have made a decision that the clearest way to avoid even the appearance of a conflict is to simply stop making purchases” of individual stocks, he said. “Directly and indirectly through my adviser.”
Welch told WCAX Wednesday that he would only be investing in mutual or exchange-traded funds. Neither Sen. Patrick Leahy nor Sen. Bernie Sanders reportedly invest in individual stocks.
VTDigger reported in March that Welch had purchased more than $7,500 worth of stock in Qiagen, a German company that produces Covid-19 tests, one of a small number of stocks that had seen its price rise amid the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Welch told VTDigger at the time that an investment adviser had made the decision without his consultation, and that he had never heard of the company.
Welch sold the stock after an inquiry from VTDigger and donated the proceeds from the March sale, $625, to the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS), a charity based in Burlington that helps the homeless.
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Welch said Thursday that the VTDigger story was “expressly misleading” because the stock purchase was made by his financial adviser and because the story stated Welch had made the purchase at about the same time he had been receiving congressional briefings on the virus.
“The adviser made the decisions without any consultations with me, so there’s no inside information,” Welch said.
Welch previously did not support banning congressional stock trading, telling VTDigger in 2018 that he believed the public disclosure of trades mandated by the 2012 Stock Act was sufficient.
Welch said Thursday that he now supports legislation co-sponsored by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that bars members of Congress from trading individual stocks. He said the legislation would help members of Congress avoid the appearance of conflict.
The issue received increased attention this spring when news broke that Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler and North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr had sold millions in stock holdings after briefings about the coronavirus.
Other members of Congress and their aides made trades involving industries associated with coronavirus during the very early stages of the pandemic, Politico reported.
VTDigger reported in 2018 that Welch had been heavily invested in the health care industry while pushing a law that some believed limited the availability of federal authorize to fight black market prescription drug sales. In 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that Welch was invested in financial firms as Congress debated regulations on those firms.
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