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The venerable TV investigative journalism program 60 Minutes recently blew the lid off a story we’ve been tracking for months. And you absolutely won’t believe it when you hear about it.
Congress can trade on insider information — and it’s 100% legal.
“In mid September 2008, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average still above 10,000, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke were holding closed-door briefings with congressional leaders, and privately warning them that a global financial meltdown could occur within a few days. One of those attending was Alabama Representative Spencer Bachus, then the ranking Republican member on the House Financial Services Committee and now its chairman.
“While Congressman Bachus was publicly trying to keep the economy from cratering, he was privately betting that it would, buying option funds that would go up in value if the market went down. He would make a variety of trades and profited at a time when most Americans were losing their shirts.”
And this isn’t the only case. There’s plenty of documentation of this kind of behavior going on — on both sides of the aisle — for years.
It’s enough to make you sick. No wonder nearly half of the members of Congress are millionaires and their investments outperform the average investor’s by an extra 6.8% each year. That’s no small potatoes, either. It can add up to thousands — even millions of dollars over time.
Something has to be done. Luckily, thanks to widespread attention finally being given to this issue, there’s a chance legislation seeking to make insider trading rules apply to Congress (legislation which was long before left for dead) may actually pass.
But I wouldn’t hold my breath. (For more of our thoughts on the topic read this.)
Meanwhile, I figure if you can’t beat Congress, then you might as well join them.
That’s why I’ve decided to share an interesting piece of research with readers: the most popular high-yield stock owned by members of Congress.
The stock I’m talking about is AT&T (NYSE: T). At last count, 57 members of Congress — 20 Democrats and 37 Republicans — owned stock in the company. That makes it the most popular income stock owned by our representatives on Capitol Hill.
And in this case, they might be on to something.
Right now this stock yields 6%… and it’s one of the most stable dividend-payers in the United States. During the recession, dividends stayed steady, but in the past five years, investors have enjoyed five annual dividend increases.
Let me be clear. We’re not suggesting Congress has inside information on AT&T. But when dozens of millionaires with a history of beating average investors year after year own a particular stock, we think it’s smart to pay attention. In fact, we have been telling readers about this for months. We even put out a special report — “Congress’ Dirty Secret” — that outlined the problem and showed people how to find out what their Congressman owns with a few clicks of a mouse.
Obviously, AT&T won’t make you a millionaire overnight, but it is one of the most stable businesses in the United States. Shares fell with the broader market during the recession, but the underlying business kept steadily making money. Today the company takes in about $120 billion in revenue each year and generates $36 billion in cash from operations. Of that, roughly $10 billion is returned to investors through dividends each year. And payments have increased every year going all the way back to the 1980s.
Action to Take –> Now, I’m not necessarily saying you should buy AT&T right now. But there is plenty to like about the stock: a stable business, billions in revenue and cash flow each year, stable and rising dividend payments… And even more important, Congress seems to agree.
[Note: As I said, we have more details about Congress' insider trading activities here. We've put together a special report -- "Congress' Dirty Secret: The 6 Most Popular Stocks Owned by Your Representatives" -- on the topic. Visit this link to learn more.]
– Paul TracySource: StreetAuthority
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