President Obama will sign the JOBS Act today, a bill that sprung from his own Jobs and Competitiveness Council, a group with 19 corporate executives and 2 labor officials. Dealbook reports that Wall Street companies have begun to scour the bill for provisions that they can use to their advantage. Because that’s how it works, right? Congress writes the legislation, and only afterwards does Wall Street look to see how it benefits them! They never try to influence the process or write the legislation themselves, that would be untoward.
Considering that this legislation rolls back a host of securities laws for so-called “emerging growth” companies, which can have up to $1 billion in revenue so I hesitate to call them small businesses, it strains credulity to believe that Wall Street just started paying attention to the legislation today. After all, who do you think underwrites IPOs? This law will bring back bucket shops and penny stock scams, recreate the overhyping of stocks we saw in the dot-com years, and contribute to the continuing ripoff of the American investor. It also breaks down the separation between research analysts and investment bankers who work for the same firms. There’s a reason that the white shoe law firm Davis Polk called it “the most significant legislative loosening in memory of restrictions around the I.P.O. process and public company reporting obligations.”
Ryan Grim and Zach Carter have a long-form takeout of the JOBS Act, and the opposition to it. Curiously, this is a bill that Democrats who voted for it mocked repeatedly as something that would do nothing to create jobs. Grim and Carter claim that tech companies got this one done:
Tech companies and their venture capital backers, angered by a bipartisan push for Internet anti-piracy legislation known as SOPA, are key beneficiaries of the JOBS Act — a fact not lost on Democratic leaders. Rapid-fire public stock offerings and free-wheeling funding are the lifeblood of the Silicon Valley landscape, and the JOBS Act promises to make it easier for financiers and their clients in the technology industry to raise money for their companies’ operations.
“What happened coming out of the SOPA fight is, people in Washington and Congress really sat up and took notice and said, ‘There is actually work to be done here. This is not just kids in T-shirts running around Palo Alto on skateboards. This really is a community looking to create the next wave of businesses that will jumpstart the American economy,’” says Michael McGeary, a strategist with the venture capital firm Hattery, based in San Francisco. “And Congress is very opportunistic this way. They saw there was this community that was very engaged … And we would like to say thank you to them.”
Certainly, the new crowdfunding provisions, allowing firms to raise capital online from small investors, will potentially aid tech startups. But it comes at the cost of perpetuating ripoffs and weakening investor protections, which even the head of the SEC, Mary Schapiro, acknowledged in warnings last month. “Collusive behavior between analysts and bankers cost investors huge sums, shattered confidence in the integrity of research, and damaged the markets themselves.”
Organized labor also lined up against the jobs bill – Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, refused to sign onto the Jobs and Competitiveness Council recommendations (he was a member) – but this had, predictably, no impact. The article paints the picture of the Administration forcing Congress to get on board, while labor hoped the Senate would slow it down. That didn’t materialize.
“We are disappointed — and angry — that despite warnings from current and former financial markets regulators, law professors, institutional investors and consumer advocates, 73 senators voted for the cynically named ‘JOBS Act,’” Trumka said.
“This is a vote against investors in the real economy and for Wall Street speculators. When the next bubble bursts, Americans will know who to blame.”
I don’t know that this anger will have anywhere to go. We’ll just get another law benefiting Wall Street that the forces trying to stop it couldn’t slow down.