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Nancy Pelosi’s 2023 trading gains top 65%, boosted by stock options: report

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Nancy Pelosi’s investment portfolio is once again among the top performers on Capitol Hill – and lately she has gotten a major boost from a controversial use of stock options, according to government disclosures.

The 83-year-old, former House speaker – who remains a Democratic congresswoman representing San Francisco – racked up a 65% return on her stocks portfolio in 2023 – more than double the S&P 500’s 24% gain, according to a new analysis from stock-trading data site Unusual Whales.

Pelosi wasn’t alone, with other options-happy members of Congress among the top-performing investors. Those included Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), who logged a return of more than 122%; and Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), who was up more than 25%.

Unlike buying individual stocks, options allow for more leverage, which means more exposure to a stock and a greater reward if a bet is right. 

Options also could be an indicator an investor has access to inside information, according to ethics watchdogs.

“It’s a sign of quasi-insider trading that’s corrupt and should be banned – it’s either an addiction to risk or a sign of corruption,” Jeff Hauser, founder and director of the Revolving Door Project said.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi racked up a 65% return on her stocks portfolio in 2023.

Options trading on Capitol Hill soared to a record of more than $160 million last year, up from $30 million in 2022. That’s even as the total number of congressional trades slumped to 11,000 last year from 14,000 a year earlier, according to filings.

“There are teams of people at sophisticated hedge funds that exist to find minor arbitrage opportunities to make a profit. It’s preposterous to think they are finding profit where Bridgewater or Renaissance Capital is missing it,” Hauser adds. 

“It’s either because they know too much or because they can’t stop thinking about money.” 

Spokespeople for Pelosi, Green, and Gottheimer did not respond to requests for comment.

Rep. Mark Green logged a return of more than 122%. AP

Pelosi’s 2023 returns stand in stark contrast to 2022, when her portfolio dropped 19.8% — worse than the 18.2% decline in the ETF that tracks the S&P 500, according to the 100-page report by Unusual Whales.

At the time, Pelosi’s portfolio took a major hit after she and her husband, tech investor Paul Pelosi, announced that they sold 25,000 shares of Nvidia at an average price point of $165.05 a share.

The sale – reportedly made as she came under fire for blocking legislation that would have regulated Congressional stock trading –  resulted in a loss of more than $341,000, according to financial filings. 

Late last month, however, securities filings showed the Pelosis were plowing into Nvidia once again. 

Securities filings showed Nancy and Paul Pelosi were plowing into Nvidia once again. AP

An X account known as Congresstrading published a screenshot of a disclosure form that showed that Pelosi bought 50 call options with a strike price of $120 and an expiration date of Dec. 20, 2024.

The transaction, made last month, was for $2 million, according to Unusual Whales. The disclosure form showed the amount as between $1 million and $5 million.

“Pelosi bet millions on $NVDA in November using call options. Using a deceptive tactic, she purposely disclosed this on the Friday before Christmas weekend to avoid media coverage,” Congresstrading tweeted.

Not every lawmaker who racked up big gains used options this year. Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) – not to be confused with the billionaire King Street Capital founder of the same name – came in as the top performer this year with a 239% return on his portfolio. 

Higgins doesn’t actively trade; rather his impressive returns were fueled by Nvidia holdings he bought in 2021 – the company’s shares also jumped 239% last year.

The Unusual Whales report also notes that of 100 stock-trading members of Congress, a third beat the S&P with their portfolios.

Last year, the average Democrat nabbed returns of 31% – well ahead of the average Republican’s 18%. Unusual Whales notes Democrats are more invested in tech stocks – which surged in 2023 – while Republicans are more exposed to the banking and oil sectors. 

In 2022, around two dozen members of Congress beat the stock market despite Wall Street suffering its worst year since 2008.

Those returns were smaller in terms of the percentage – the best performer Rep. Patrick Fallon (R-Texas) who made 51.6% on his investments in 2022.

Right behind him was Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) with a 50.8% spike, the report showed.

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