Up until recently, serving in the Trump administration was not necessarily much of a drain on a person’s time. And the propriety of doing a little bit of trading on the side has never been questioned. Rarely, however, even in the clown car of “public servants” assembled by this president not particularly concerned with either in his own case, has the combination of sinecure and cupidity matched the level achieved by one Robert Bowes.
Robert Bowes, a political appointee in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has reported 140 trades of stocks and options that collectively amount to between $671,000 and $3.2 million since joining the government in early 2017. Three bets on options or individual stocks were larger than $50,000 each….
Ethics rules don’t ban government officials from trading, as long as they steer clear of conflicts of interest and don’t take advantage of inside information, which Mr. Bowes said he didn’t. What was unusual, ethics experts said, was the frequency of his transactions, the high-stakes bets he sometimes made and the exotic securities he sometimes traded. On several occasions in 2018 and 2020, he bought and sold thousands of dollars of options on the same day.
“It is literally day trading,” Robert Rizzi, a partner at law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP who advises government officials and nominees on financial disclosure, said after reviewing Mr. Bowes’s filings. “When they’re in the government, a lot of them don’t have time to do this, so it’s pretty amazing that he’s doing all this trading.”
Even truer to Trumpian form, it’s not at all clear whether Bowes made or lost money on all that trading, as his financial disclosures are almost as lacking as his patron’s. Obviously, this is a man who has earned a promotion.
In August, Mr. Trump nominated Mr. Bowes to a seat on the five-member CFTC, a financial regulator that oversees derivatives markets and enforces laws against insider trading and fraud.