Congressman Phil Roe admits to stock trades during pandemic
Congressman Phil Roe admitted Thursday that he's traded in companies affected by the coronavirus. He bought tech stocks like Zoom and Slack, and sold off stock from a cruise line. Dr. Roe said that while he's bought and sold millions of dollars of stock since the coronavirus pandemic started, he has a financial advisor make all of his trades.
Merrill Lynch called us and confirmed that Roe's money is invested with the firm. They wanted to point out that Roe's investments are part of a large, collective pool, similar to a mutual fund. Merrill Lynch's spokesperson said that Roe could not actively invest (day trade) his own stocks in that type of fund. They say a third party stock picker chooses what to invest in.
WVLT News has been researching the story for more than two months, and talked to the congressman Thursday morning.
Rep. Roe represents Tennessee's first congressional district, but does not plan to run for re-election this year.
Roe told WVLT News he feels like he's being attacked.
"A political hit job. Basically a character assassination. For someone who didn't do what they implied there that he did do," Rep. Roe said of a newspaper article that came out earlier this week.
Rep. Roe says Merrill Lynch manages his money - which is publicly disclosed by congressional rules, adding he has nothing to hide.
"With all the briefings I had, I never spoke to my financial advisor about any of this because it didn't involve him. Because it's irrelevant," Roe said.
That's despite many of the stocks making big jumps in value, such as Skype, Slack, LogMeIn and a vaccine company.
"Remember, I don't know when it was bought, because I don't direct it at all," Roe said.
On January 30th, Dr. Roe hosted U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, at an East Tennessee State University medical school event. The next day, more than a thousand dollars of Zoom stock was purchased in Roe's name.
"Just curious what you and Dr. Adams talked about," WVLT News reporter Ben Cathey asked.
"Ben, I don't remember. It's been four months ago," Roe said. "Dr. Adams and I talked about it ... I really appreciated him coming to our district."
Rep. Roe said he's not a career politician and already plans on retiring.
"I told people I'd serve 10 or 12 years. I'm doing exactly that. I'm coming home. And maybe, I served two years two long."
WVLT News also looked into all local congressional members, including Reps. Tim Burchett and Chuck Fleischmann, as well as Sens. Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn. Most have only a few financial disclosures to report, and Burchett's only buy was Denny's.