Sen. Whitehouse: I don’t trade my own stocks

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s office on Monday dismissed an investigation by a Washington news outlet that questioned stock trades made by him and other members of Congress, saying he has no day-to-day involvement in his investments.

The lengthy Politico article found that “28 House members and six senators each traded more than 100 stocks in the past two years, placing them in the potential cross hairs of a conflict of interest on a regular basis,” particularly by “trading in companies that have a major interest in federal legislation.”

Whitehouse – a second-term Democrat and the only member of Congress from Southern New England mentioned in the article – was singled out for buying shares in pharmaceutical companies last fall at the same time that Congress was finalizing the 21st Century Cures Act, a major medical-research bill. The story noted that he serves on the Senate committee that oversees health legislation.

Asked about the stock transactions, Whitehouse spokeswoman Meaghan McCabe told Eyewitness News: “Trades made in the senator’s account are conducted by a financial advisor without any input from the senator or his family.” Similarly, Whitehouse himself told Politico, “I don’t decide on, neither am I even informed of, trades that are made in my account.”

McCabe provided an email that Denise Roberts, a senior vice president at Morgan Stanley, sent to Whitehouse confirming that his investments “are always managed on a discretionary basis, without input from you and your family. You are not notified in advance of any trades placed on your accounts.”

Roberts went on to note that since February 2013 Whitehouse has restricted his accounts from being used to buy fossil-fuel investments, and said he recently added “restrictions on purchases of tobacco and gun manufacturers.” Whitehouse’s office said she sent the email March 15.

Whitehouse, a descendant of the 19th-century railroad baron Charles Crocker, is the wealthiest member of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation, with an estimated net worth of $6.8 million as of last year. His senior Senate colleague, Jack Reed, had an estimated net worth of $690,000.

Whitehouse’s investments previously received critical attention in 2011, when author Peter Schweizer alleged that the senator might have benefited from information he learned on the health committee when he made stock trades in 2007. After it was noted that Whitehouse was not in fact serving on that committee at the time, however, Schweizer told The Providence Journal that he “probably would not have mentioned” the senator had he known that.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook