From what we now know, it seems likely. Keep in mind: It was perfectly legal then. (You might remember that Chuck Grassley, the Republican senator from Iowa, denounced members of Congress who “trolled for political intelligence and sold it to Wall Street.”)
When the Richmonder broke the story just days ago, electoral journos jumped on it, but just as quickly jumped off when details surfaced that seemed to debunk claims that Ryan had profited from insider knowledge at a closed meeting. The story: In September 2008, on the verge of the financial crisis, Ryan went to a private gathering of congressional leaders to meet with then Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. The ostensible reason for their meeting was to discuss the next legislative steps to contain the meltdown. Here’s what reportedly happened (from the Richmonder, who kindly included copies of Ryan’s financial disclosure statements as well):
Instead of doing anything to help, Ryan left the meeting and on that very same day Paul Ryan sold shares of stock he owned in several troubled banks and reinvested the proceeds in Goldman Sachs, a bank that the meeting had disclosed was not in trouble. This is the guy Republicans want one heartbeat away from the presidency? He seems more than a little shady to me.
Matt Yglesias explains his recantation:
Let me apologize… As Eric Platt explains he certainly seems to have sold the shares on the same day as the meeting, but the meeting happened in the evening by which time the markets would have been closed. One can perhaps construct a scenario by which the Richmonder’s theory of the case holds up, but they don’t have the goods and I shouldn’t have passed their analysis on with no qualification and so little scrutiny of my own.
But now AlterNet’s Lynn Parramore has nimbly countered such back-tracking, via a conversation with financial expert expert Thomas Ferguson. As she reveals, on the day of the meeting, sometime between 2:30 and 3pm, word began circulating about the meeting and that:
If you knew that Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke were coming to brief you as stock markets fell around the world, that’s really all you needed to know to do the trades in Ryan’s portfolio.
Moreover, contrary to what the Romney camp claims, these were not general trades of index-based securities, but sales and purchases of individual stock in Wachovia, Citigroup and J. P. Morgan, and Paulson’s old firm, Goldman Sachs, on the same day. Was this really just (majorly) convenient coincidence?