Updates on Two American Pastimes: Baseball and Insider Trading

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The San Francisco Giants play the Colorado Rockies during the first inning of a baseball game at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Saturday, June 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The San Francisco Giants play the Colorado Rockies during the first inning of a baseball game at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Saturday, June 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

A few weeks ago, we reported on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ongoing investigation into whether a piece of inside information about Obamacare was illegally leaked by a Capitol Hill staffer. As we wrote, when an investment research firm passed the tip to its clients, “Many health care stocks rose sharply and savvy hedge funds made out like bandits.”

The SEC subpoenaed documents and other evidence from Congress and the staff member in question, Brian Sutter of the House Ways and Means Committee. The US District Court for the Southern District of Manhattan gave Sutter and the House lawyers until July 4 to explain their opposition to handing over what had been demanded.

On the appointed day, they responded to the court that they were “absolutely immune,” protected by the speech and debate clause in Article 1 of the US Constitution stating that members of Congress and staff “…shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony, and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their attendance at the Session of their Respective Houses, and in going to and from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”

If the court refuses to dismiss the case, House lawyers said, it should be transferred to federal court in Washington. As for summoning Brian Sutter to testify, the court was told that his schedule is “heavily, and nearly permanently, booked.”

Since then, the SEC has filed against the House motion to dismiss or move the case by informing the judge, Bloomberg Businessweek reports, “that the geographic scope of the investigation is ‘much wider’ than described lawyers for the House and involves a total of 44 entities.

The probe concerns some of the largest hedge funds and asset-management advisers in the U.S., the SEC said in the July 16 filing. Twenty-five of the 44 are based in New York, it said.

Stay tuned. This could get even better.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, last summer we told you about the fight by 800 seasonal concession workers at AT&T Park, home of baseball’s San Francisco Giants, to get a fair contract:

Employed by a South Carolina-based company called Centerplate, their jobs only last the six months of the season and they make but $11,000 a year, right at the poverty line for a single individual in the United States. Their situation is yet another flagrant example of the vast and widening gap created by income inequality in America.

A one-day strike and a series of protests at the park helped mobilize members and public opinion. After months of hard work, good news — UNITE HERE Local 2 got a deal, ratified by 98 percent of the membership.

According to San Francisco Labor Council delegate Carl Finamore, writing at CounterPunch, “The agreement provides the best wages and benefits in the country for their type of work.

The terms included an immediate raise of $1.40 an hour with some back pay, strong job security protections, dental insurance and fully paid family medical coverage without co-pays through the contract’s 2019 expiration date.

The agreement will also fund a big improvement in pension benefits and will tie future health care and wage increases to San Francisco’s big hotels – so when Local 2 hotel workers get wage and benefit increases, Centerplate will match them at Giants stadium.

 Now if the Giants can just work on their pitching and offense…

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, and a former senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship.
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