While a US senator has been pushing legislation to boost the nation’s semiconductor industry, his wife — who happens to own the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan — has been cleaning up on shares of chipmakers that have stood to benefit.
Since last year, Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, has pushed legislation to bolster US chip companies, including by co-sponsoring the America LEADS Act and speaking out in favor of the CHIPS Act, two bills designed to promote semiconductor design and production on American soil amid rising competition from China.
Wyden’s efforts got a leg up on Wednesday, when Senate majority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced a bill for $52 billion in subsidies for domestic chip production and research and development.
Meanwhile, his wife Nancy Bass Wyden — who warned in October that the iconic Strand “cannot survive” without more business after being slammed by the pandemic — has been buying up potentially millions of dollars worth of shares in American chip designers and manufacturers like Nvidia, according to government documents.
In March of 2020, Wyden declared his support for the CHIPS Act, saying, “There’s bipartisan interest in building up our domestic manufacturing to bolster the supply of semiconductors and other critical components and products.”
Shortly thereafter, Wyden’s wife began purchasing between $245,000 and $600,000 worth of stock in California-based NVIDIA, one of the country’s top semiconductor firms, according to a Post analysis of publicly-available financial disclosures.
Bass Wyden’s buys included $50,000 to $100,000 of NVIDIA stock in April of last year and between $100,000 and $250,000 in May, as well as four other transactions leading up to her husband announcing his co-sponsorship of the America LEADS Act in September.
“The minute you have congressmen or their family members trading in individual stocks, the odor is not very good,” Duke University corporate and securities law professor James Cox told The Post. “We should prevent congressmen and their families from owning anything other than broadly-based index funds.”
However, Cox added that the chances of the Wyden family’s transactions constituting illegal insider trading were “slim to none.”
Wyden’s office and Bass-Wyden did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
Senators and their immediate families are required to disclose equities trades and other financial information under the STOCK Act of 2012. Craig Holman, a Capitol Hill lobbyist for progressive consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, helped draft and promote the legislation.
“I have the greatest confidence in the integrity of Ron Wyden and I don’t think he’s manipulating the semiconductor business,” Holman told The Post. “But I do want to point out that it does have that appearance and it can be a real political problem.”
“I would encourage the Senator to not have himself or his wife trading in stocks in businesses that he directly oversees,” Holman added.
It’s not the first time Bass-Wyden has caught attention for her stock investments.
In April and May of 2020, records show that Bass-Wyden bought between $115,000 and $250,000 worth of stock in Amazon, the biggest online competitor to independent bookstores. The transactions came shortly after Bass Wyden laid off 188 Strand employees despite the bookstore receiving a loan of $1 million to $2 million under the Paycheck Protection Program, a policy her husband helped shepherd through the Senate.
Bass Wyden’s chip dealing does not end with NVIDIA. The bookstore baroness, who married Wyden in 2005, purchased between $31,000 and $115,000 worth of shares of both Applied Materials and KLA Corp., two California-based suppliers to semiconductor manufacturers, through a series of transactions in April 2020 through February 2021, according to disclosures.
She then cashed-out all of her stock in both companies in April of 2021 for between $150,000 and $350,000 each, the disclosures show.
Bass-Wyden also bought between $46,000 and $165,000 worth of shares of California semiconductor manufacturer Broadcom in a series of transactions from April 2020 through March 2021. She then sold all of the stock for between $101,000 and $265,000 in April of this year, records show.
While Senate disclosures do not show exactly how much money Bass-Wyden made, she appears to have taken in a handsome profit. Between the day Bass-Wyden first purchased Applied Materials shares and the day she fully cashed out, the stock’s price surged by 190 percent, according to Marketwatch data. For KLA, that figure is 124 percent and for Broadcom it’s 91 percent.