Legislative Updates: April 2012
March brought about (relatively) unprecedented bipartisan cooperation between Congress and the Administration on not one but two separate topics. After Congress passed the measures, President Obama signed into law the STOCK (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge) Act and the JOBS (Jumpstart our Business Startups) Act in early April. The STOCK Act prevents members of Congress, their staff and members of the Administration from using insider knowledge to profit from stock trades. The JOBS Act seeks to increase access to capital markets for emerging growth companies by, among other things, allowing certain companies to engage in "crowdfunding" by lifting many restrictions on small investors grouping together.
Though both measures passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities, the STOCK Act was opposed by a few who thought it didn’t go far enough, while the JOBS Act was opposed by those who thought that investor protection would suffer and that bad actors would take advantages of the “loopholes” the Act created.
The comity didn't last long, with President Obama continuing to speak at many campaign events about the need for "fairness" in the tax code, and many Republicans taking umbrage with his attacks on the FY2013 Republican budget blueprint that was passed by the House last month. It seems that both parties are back to bickering at each other using their same old talking points. In this season of hope, perhaps they can cooperate on another important matter before the election.
In Congressional news, the House Financial Services and Agriculture Committees have been working on a few swaps-related measures. The Agriculture Commodities Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), held a hearing last month to consider three measures focused on Title VII of Dodd-Frank and also to clarify the reach of new regulatory requirements for swaps activities that occur outside of the United States. It is interesting that the Committees are focusing on swaps because, while the industry is large and complex, its activities have only relatively recently begun to attract the attention of Congress. Expect more Congressional focus on swaps and other OTC derivatives in the coming months and years.
We are pleased to announce Joe Corcoran is joining the OCC office in Washington, D.C., as First Vice President and Head of Government Relations. He comes to us from NYSE Euronext, where he served as Chief Counsel. He brings with him a deep knowledge of the regulatory process, specifically related to the options and derivatives industries. He will help OCC as it continues to work on implementing the multitude of Dodd-Frank-related rules put forth by the SEC and CFTC.
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