By William K. Black, Henry N. Pontell and Gilbert Geis
As white-collar criminologists (and a former financial regulator and enforcement head) and experts in ferreting out sophisticated financial frauds, our careers and research focus on financial fraud by the world’s most elite private sector criminals and their political cronies. Therefore, we write to thank Congress and the President for preparing to adopt a JOBS Act that will provide us with job security for life. We will be the personal beneficiaries of Congress’ decision to adopt the law without the pesky hearings that would allow critics to launch devastating attacks on the proposed bill based on a brutally unfair tactic – the presentation of facts. Unfortunately, in our professional capacities, we must oppose the bill. This bill is an atrocity.
The “Jumpstart Our Business Startups” Act, the comically forced effort to create a catchy acronym, is the most cynical bill to emerge from a cynical Congress and Administration. It is an exemplar of why Congressional approval ratings are well below those of used car dealers. The JOBS Act is something only a financial scavenger could love. It will create a fraud-friendly and fraud-enhancing environment. It will add to the unprecedented level of financial fraud by our most elite CEOS that has devastated the U.S. and European economies and cost over 20 million people their jobs. Financial fraud is a prime jobs killer.
Powerful regulatory regimes – strong accounting rules, strict corporate governance, tough securities laws, and vigorous civil and criminal enforcement of the regulations and laws is the greatest infrastructure for strong economic growth that a nation can provide. For decades, the U.S. had an enormous competitive advantage over other nations in raising funds through securities because investors placed great trust in issuers that were subject to effective regulation. U.S. equities traded at a substantial premium compared to securities issued in other nations (which means that companies could raise capital much more effectively and inexpensively). Regulators serve as the “cops on the beat” that prevent a Gresham’s Dynamic in which “bad ethics drives good ethics out of the markets.”
Our system worked brilliantly. America prospered. American businesses and investors prospered. Unfortunately, economists decided to destroy what worked and to replace it with a fraud-friendly, deregulated world. Alan Greenspan was only the most prominent high priest of the following dogma: “a rule against fraud is not an essential or … an important ingredient of securities markets” (Easterbrook & Fischel 1991). This faith-based economics had no basis in reality, but it led to aggressive anti-regulatory leaders whose policies were so criminogenic that they led to recurrent and ever-larger serious financial crises.
George Akerlof, Nobel Laureate in Economics (2001), and Paul Romer wrote the definitive economics article on financial fraud in 1993 (“Looting: the Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit”). They ended it with the following to emphasize a profound policy message.
“Neither the public nor economists foresaw that S&L deregulation was bound to produce looting. Therefore, they could not imagine how serious it would be. Thus the regulators in the field who understood what was happening from the beginning found lukewarm support, at best, for their cause. Now we know better. If we learn from experience, history need not repeat itself” (p. 60).
But economists, as a group, proved that they did not “know better” and that their problem was not that they were “unaware of the concept” of looting “control frauds” (frauds led by the leaders of seemingly legitimate entities). Economists, overwhelmingly, have ignored a Nobel Laureate in economics, white-collar criminologists, and experts on public administration and regulation. They have compounded their mistakes and they have dominated financial policy in the U.S. and Europe – the epicenters of the crises.
Among the many fraud-friendly policies that led to the deregulation that prompts our recurrent, intensifying financial crises, the undisputed most destructive aspect is the recurrent, intensifying embrace of the “regulatory race to the bottom.” The “logic” of the argument in the securities law context is that (1) dishonest issuers like bad regulation because it allows them to defraud with impunity, (2) our “competitor” nations (typically described as the City of London) offer weaker regulation to induce the fraudulent issuers to locate abroad, and (3) we must not allow this to happen; we must make sure that fraudulent issuers are based in America. Of course, they never phrase honestly their “logic” about dishonesty. Four national commissions investigated the causes of financial crises – the S&L debacle, the ongoing U.S. crisis, the Irish crisis, and the Icelandic crisis. Each of the commissions has decried the idiocy of the “race to the bottom” dynamic and warned that it must end. The arguments advanced by industry in support of the JOBS Act reflect and worship at the altar of “the race to the bottom.”
It is self-defeating for us to say this because as criminologists and anti-fraud specialists we would have job security for life if this bill was adopted. It is literally composed of the wish list in regard to fraud-friendly provisions that those intent on cheating have been dreaming about and salivating to achieve for decades. This bill will kill millions of jobs because financial frauds are weapons of mass financial destruction. It will start an international fraud-friendly deregulation race to the bottom and will become the basis for further criminogenic U.S. Congressional actions.
William K. Black
Associate Professor of Economics and Law
University of Missouri-Kansas City
Henry N. Pontell
Professor of Criminology, Law and Society
University of California, Irvine
Professor Emeritus of Criminology, Law and Society
University of California, Irvine
Tavakoli Structured Finance, Inc.
CEO; Director of Equity Research,
Lynn A. Stout
Distinguished Visiting Professor of Corporate and Business Law
Cornell Law School
Glad to see they’re interested in at at least one full employment program, even if it only covers criminologists.
Is there a description of what the authors find criminogenic about that bill? That would be helpful, as I, and probably most others, are not familiar with it in this detail.
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Prof. Black, who will pay to see this advertised 24/7 on radio, TV, the Internet, and billboards?
This is the gospel truth. Even Republicans must hear it every hour, like water on the stone. There must be a set of major advocate of this truth, and how it fits within the Big Fraud frame, on Talk Radio every hour of the day and night–especially in competition with Rush Limbaugh’s peak hours for Construction workers and other White Male Laborers who work with their hands and consume inflammatory talk-radio while they work (this is the key to Rush’s success: a twofer that fills formerly dead radio hours while feeding a captive resentful audience that is free to talk back, even from the field of work, or of unemployment.
There could be no more important timely campaign in history than this one, right now. Who will bankroll it?
Prof. Black, it was encouraging to see Yves Smith bring this topic over to Naked Capitalism so quickly today, also quoting you directly.
On today’s Links at NC, was the connection to “Capitalism: A Ghost Story” by Arundhati Roy (original post at http://www.outlookindia.com), with significant information connecting covert global crony capitalists in BigCorp and politics. A case in point is Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana (he was Governor Murphy Foster’s protege; he married into the famous Jolly family of Baton Rouge, and is a faithful servant of the Roman Catholic Empire), who has been presented as a “man of color” who came up in the ranks through exceptional merit). For your edification, I quote Roy just above the photograph captioned: “A whole spectrum of corruption….”:
“RIL is one of a handful of corporations that run India. Some of the others are the Tatas, Jindals, Vedanta, Mittals, Infosys, Essar and the other Reliance (ADAG), ….Their race for growth has spilled across Europe, Central Asia, Africa and Latin America.” … [next paragraph] “India’s new mega-corporations–Tatas, Jindals, Essar, Reliance Sterlite–are those who have managed to muscle their way to the head of the spigot that is spewing money extracted from deep inside the earth. It’s a dream come true for businessman–to be able to sell what they don’t have to buy.”
Who would know to connect “little Bobby Jindal” with the global mega-corporation in India? This is Louisiana politics as usual, “la politique de Richelieu” for insider Fat Cats. How does he connect with BigOil/Politics in LA? Shouldn’t The New York Times be telling this story from the beginning, when Gov. Foster appointed Bobby Jindal to re-write health care in Louisiana, and he was hailed as the “boy genius?” See his academic record.
This shows how difficult it is to determine who is influencing Obama, how, and why. Follow the “dark money.”
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I understand the opposition, and strongly suspect this bill should be entitled the “Just Start Bucket Shops” Act. But your article would be much more convincing were it to include at least a short laundry list of specific provisions you find dangerous – together with chapter & verse citations. After all, you folks are the experts who really know what these provisions are and why they are so dangerous – what floodgate they will open. Railing aginst evil may be therapeutic for you, but it is not very informative for your readers. Understand: I don’t disagree. I just want you to document the failings for those of us less expert than you.
Prof. Black I have linked to your words here:
And continue to link to your interviews and writings in UK MSM press. I am appalled by what is happening in the UK.
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