Overlooked in the mockery of the GOP House taking some innocuous-seeming bills about small business capital formation and wrapping them up into a package to call them the JOBS Act is that the underlying bills themselves are really not good at all. It’s an effort to exempt a bunch of companies from reporting requirements and weaken investor protections. It’s a financial industry deregulation bill. Jesse Eisinger lays it out.
John Coffee, a Columbia Law professor, has hailed the bill as “the boiler room legalization act.” And rightly so. Boiler room operations were one of the unsung job creators of the 1990s, producing some of America’s greatest penny stocks and boom times for yacht makers and coke dealers [...]
Since the technology stock blowup, the accounting scandals at Enron and WorldCom and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, investors have been needlessly wary of putting their savings into fledgling companies offered by Wall Street banks.
The JOBS bill fixes that. Taking advantage of the revolutionary possibilities of the Internet, the bill loosens decades-old investor protections so that companies can directly advertise to those who would like to be separated from their money. It does that by giving broad exemptions for start-ups that want to “crowdfund” by raising small amounts of money over the Internet. I.P.O. pitches next to “Lose Your Belly!” ads. Sounds like a great idea!
Nigeria shouldn’t be the only country to benefit from the web. Right here in America, the elderly are increasingly attractive to a variety of entrepreneurial spirits. If JOBS becomes the law, such innovators could flourish.
That has it about right. Arthur Levitt, one of the last decent regulators at the SEC, called it “the most investor-unfriendly act I’ve seen in 25 years in that it favors corporate America at the expense of individual investors.” But consumer and investor advocacy groups got a very late start in raising awareness, and some powerful people in Congress – think Chuck Schumer – want to see this pass. Probably the only way to stop it at this point is to wrap it up in a separate controversy about the Export-Import Bank:
The Export-Import Bank — a self-financing agency that helps to facilitate the sale of American goods overseas — needs Congressional reauthorization by the end of May. It is also close to hitting its $100 billion lending cap, hobbling its ability to offer new loans, and has asked Congress to raise its financing limit.
With those two issues at hand, Congress is arguing over the bank’s future, with some Republicans floating a proposal that might end up abolishing the bank, and Senate Democrats hoping to force its expansion and reauthorization by attaching it to jobs legislation.
On Wednesday, Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, introduced an amendment to keep the bank running through 2015 and to increase its loan limit to $140 billion. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, is cosponsoring the amendment. The Senate is tying the amendment to the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, or JOBS Act, a bill containing a bevy of measures to aid small businesses. The JOBS Act passed the House last week with broad bipartisan support and has won plaudits from the White House.
“Allowing the Ex-Im Bank to expire would be a crippling blow to our export economy,” Ms. Cantwell said Wednesday. “Extending the Ex-Im bank will provide certainty for American businesses and help support more private sector job growth.”
But some House Republicans are resisting, arguing the Senate should pass the JOBS Act as it is, and that Congress should then turn to reauthorizing — and reforming — the small financing institution.
Schumer has nominally backed Cantwell’s Ex-Im Bank reauthorization, which has its own benefits for the financial industry. And so far, there doesn’t seem to be any sign that Senate Democrats will back down. I’m rooting for acrimony. Let the Senate pass the JOBS Act with this Ex-Im Bank rider, and let the House take it out, and they can trade barbs about it for years. That’s literally the only viable path to maintaining some investor protections here.