Bill Black on the JOBS Act

Over at Naked Capitalism, Bill Black has a powerful piece in opposition to the financial deregulation bill that is misleadingly called the JOBS Act.

The JOBS Act is insane on many levels. It creates an extraordinarily criminogenic environment in which securities fraud will become even more out of control. One of the forms of insanity is the belief that one can “win” a regulatory “race to the bottom.” The only winning move is not to play in a regulatory race to the bottom. The primary rationale for the JOBS Act is the claim that we must win a regulatory race to the bottom with the City of London by adopting even weaker protections for investors from securities fraud than does the United Kingdom (UK).

The second form of insanity is that the JOBS Act is being adopted without any consideration of the findings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC), the national commission to investigate the causes of the current crisis. I am not aware of any proponent or opponent of the JOBS Act (other than me) who has cited the findings of FCIC. Everyone involved has ignored the detailed finding of a huge investigative effort. The FCIC report explained repeatedly how the three “de’s” (deregulation, desupervision, and de facto decriminalization) had produced the criminogenic environment that drove the financial crisis. The FCIC report specifically condemned the “regulatory arbitrage” that the worst actors exploited by choosing to be (not very) regulated by the “winners” of the regulatory race to the bottom. The FCIC report shows repeatedly how damaging the anti-regulatory fervor in general and the race to the bottom in particular proved.

The seventh form of insanity is that there is no greater killer of jobs than elite financial fraud. Such fraud epidemics can hyper-inflate bubbles (as they did in the U.S. and several European nations) and cause severe financial crises and recessions. The resulting Great Recession has cost over 10 million Americans their existing or future jobs in this crisis. It has cost over another 15 million people their existing or future jobs in Europe. The JOBS Act is so fraud friendly that it will harm capital formation and produce additional job losses. It may appear to be an oxymoron designed by regular morons, but that underestimates the abilities of the lobbyists that drafted this bill. They are not morons. They are doing faithful, clever service to their fraudulent clients. That makes them more dangerous.

The tenth form of insanity is that the JOBS Act’s primary theme is dramatically reducing transparency in securities law. If there is any nearly universal principle that writers about the ongoing global crisis emphasized that we needed to learn it was the exceptional virtue of transparency. Greater transparency makes private market discipline possible, it greatly enhances regulatory effectiveness, it discourages fraud, and it aids investors in making decisions. The JOBS Act repeatedly embraces opaqueness. We have known for millennia that this increases fraud.

The JOBS Act is supported by the administration and has been passed by both the House and Senate, though the Senate made tweaks which will require the House to vote on it again before it goes to the President’s desk for signing.

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