Lawmakers Tackle Investment and Securities Matters

US Senators John Thune (R-SD), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Tom Coburn (R-Okla) have introduced a bill that would mandate that public pension plans reveal more information about the way they calculate liabilities and assets or place at risk the favorable tax treatment for bonds that are issued by the states and cities. S. 799 is a companion legislation to a bill that was recently unveiled in the US House of Representatives.

Like S. 799, SRLR 710 would make pension plans notify the Treasury Department about what assumptions and methods they use to determine assets, debt, and liabilities. Failure to abide by these tougher disclosure requirements would lead to the revocation of tax exemptions for specific bonds put out by municipalities and states. The senators’ bill also would prohibit federal bailout for any public pension funds.

Another Republican, Rep. Ann Wagner from Missouri, recently presented HR 1626, which would prohibit the Securities and Exchange Commission from being able to make companies reveal their political spending. The legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), would amend the 1934 Securities Exchange Act.

It was nearly two years ago that a group of law professors petitioned the SEC to mandate the disclosure of how much companies allot toward political spending. Many have called on the Commission to push such rulemaking forward. However, some Republicans believe that ordering this type of disclosure exceeds the bandwidth of the SEC’s mission, which they say doesn’t include discretionary rules.

Political spending by companies is also an issue that Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) are tackling. Their bills, HR 1734 and S. 824, would mandate that companies get majority shareholder approval before they can use funds for political contributions and notify the SEC of such spending. Corporate shareholders would have to approve an “overall political budget.”
Both men introduced similar bills during the 112th Congress with no success.

In other news, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) is requesting that law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP to disclose what its relationships are in the political intelligence industry because of allegations that the firm may have communicated market-moving data about Medicare Advantage to Height Securities, a political intelligence firm. Height Securities then allegedly passed the information on to certain clients and several insurers’ shares reportedly went soaring.

Slaughter, who introduced the original draft of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act in 2006, made the request to Greenberg Traurig CEO Richard Rosenbaum in writing. A spokesperson for the law firm says that it no longer has a relationship with Height and that Greenberg Traurig has since concluded that providing government relations services to those in political intelligence can lead to unintended use of such services.

Meantime, Representatives Carolyn Maloney from New York and Maxine Waters from California, two other Democratic lawmakers, are asking the lawmakers tasked with appropriations to make sure that the funding the SEC receives for the next fiscal year is $1.674 billion, which is what President Barack Obama also wants. Their letter, signed by 51 other lawmakers, noted how it is imperative that Congress “fully fund” the regulator so that effective rulemaking and proper oversight of the securities market can happen.

Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD, LLP is a securities fraud law firm that represents institutional investors throughout the US.

Greenberg Traurig law fir at the center of ‘political intelligence’ case, Washington Post, May 6, 2013

S. 779: Public Employee Pension Transparency Act

HR 1626: Focusing the SEC on Its Mission Act

Democrats Urge Appropriators to Fully Fund SEC, Committee on Financial Services-Democrats, April 23, 2013

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