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House Ethics Committee extends probe of Suozzi stock trades

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Days after New York's lieutenant governor resigned following his arrest on bribery and other charges, ethical questions continued to cloud the 2022 gubernatorial election as the House Ethics Committee extended its investigation of a contender for the Democratic nomination.

Scrutiny of Rep. Thomas R. Suozzi of Nassau County will continue over allegations that he failed to properly disclose various stock transactions, the House panel announced late Thursday. While Suozzi maintains he complied with all regulations, the probe now centers on whether he may have violated the Stock Act, designed to guard against insider trading by members of Congress.

Officials said no conclusions should be drawn by the committee's extension of a probe into the congressman's handling of financial reporting requirements, but the development is expected to figure in a campaign featuring ethics as a central theme.

"The Committee will announce its course of action in this matter on or before Friday, July 29, 2022," the panel said in its announcement.

The statement signaled some kind of decision more than a month after the June 28 Democratic primary. Suozzi is challenging incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul in the primary and also faces New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams.

Suozzi's office continues to maintain that his financial advisors have rectified the situation, adding he would support legislation to ban lawmakers from trading stocks.

“The Congressman’s investments are managed through independent advisors with full discretion over all transactions," a Suozzi spokesman said in a statement. "The Congressman does not control or direct these transactions."

The action follows the Tuesday resignation of Brian A. Benjamin as lieutenant governor, which prompted criticism of Hochul from Suozzi. The congressman has also questioned the governor's alleged use of state aircraft for fundraising purposes.

Suozzi is confronting allegations he failed to report trades after a good government group called the Campaign Legal Center filed a September complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics.

“From 2017 to 2020, Rep. Suozzi made approximately 300 stock trades with a total value ranging from approximately $3.2 million to $11 million,” the complaint said. "For four years, Rep. Suozzi traded stocks frequently, but did not file any PTRs as required,” referring to period transaction reports.

The Buffalo News, noting a report in the Insider news site, reported in December that Suozzi and 12 other lawmakers were cited in the group's complaint, though the dollar value of Suozzi's tardily reported securities transactions – at least $3.2 million – exceeded that of Jacobs, whose trades were worth at least $336,000.

The Campaign Legal Center noted in its February complaint that failure to properly disclose transactions on a timely basis defeats the Stock Act purpose, crafted in 2012 by the late Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, to ensure the public knows about the lawmakers' investments.

“The harm is that this trend could quickly defeat one of the purposes of the Stock Act, which is real time disclosure of potential conflicts of interest," the complaint said. "If members are not held accountable for failing to disclose stock trades, many may simply wait until their annual financial disclosures to reveal stock trades and pay nominal late fees, thereby circumventing the Stock Act."

A spokesman for Suozzi said he "takes his disclosure obligations seriously."

"Every annual financial disclosure was filed and all periodic transaction reports will be filed on a going forward basis," the statement read.

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