Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutionsby Senator Jack Reed
Posted on 2013-02-12
REED (for himself, Mr. Grassley, and Mr. Leahy):
S. 286. A bill to enhance civil penalties under the Federal
securities laws, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Banking,
Housing, and Urban Affairs.
Mr. REED. Mr. President, today I am reintroducing the Strengthening Enforcement of Civil Penalties Act or the SEC Penalties Act with my colleague, Senator Grassley. I am pleased that Senator Leahy has joined us in introducing the bill this year.
The SEC Penalties Act will enhance the ability of securities regulators to protect investors and demand greater accountability from market players. Unfortunately, even after the financial crisis that crippled the economy, some on Wall Street continue to pursue profits at all costs, making the calculated decision to do wrong and move on. Without the consequence of meaningful penalties to impact decision- making, I fear we will continue to witness a disturbing culture of misconduct by some on Wall Street.
The current regime for securities law violations limits by statute the amount of penalties the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, can fine an institution or individual. During hearings I held in 2011 in the Securities, Insurance, and Investment Banking Subcommittee, I found out how this limitation significantly ties the hands of the SEC in performing its enforcement duties. At that time, the agency had been criticized by a Federal judge for not obtaining a larger settlement against Citigroup, a major player in the financial crisis that ended up settling with the SEC in an amount that was a fraction of the cost the bank had inflicted on investors and the profits the bank had ultimately pocketed. The SEC explained that the low settlement amount was because it was statutorily prohibited from levying a larger penalty.
The bill we are introducing seeks to substantially update and strengthen the SEC's civil penalties statute. This legislation should cause potential and current offenders to think twice before engaging in misconduct by increasing the statutory limits on civil monetary penalties, directly linking the size of these penalties to the scope of harm and associated investor losses, and substantially raising the financial stakes for repeat offenders of our nation's securities laws.
Specifically, our bill would increase the per violation cap for the most egregious securities laws violations to $1 million per offense for individuals and $10 million per offense for entities. This will help ensure that the SEC's most severe, or ``tier three,'' penalties will help deter people from engaging in the most serious offenses, rather than have such wrongdoing be viewed as just the cost of doing business. Under existing law, the SEC can only penalize individual securities law violators a maximum of $150,000 per offense and institutions $725,000 per offense.
Our bill also would allow penalties equal to three times the economic gain of the violator. It provides a new calculation method that includes the amount of associated investor losses as part of the penalty determination. This should allow the SEC to address situations where the actual economic gain to the violator is relatively small compared to the extent of the wrongdoing or the harm caused to investors.
The SEC Penalties Act also addresses the disconcerting trend of repeat offenders on Wall Street. Our bill includes two statutory changes to substantially improve the ability of the SEC's enforcement program to ratchet up penalties for recidivists.
One provision would allow the SEC to triple the applicable penalty cap for recidivists who, within the preceding five years, have been criminally convicted of securities fraud or been the subject of a judgment or order imposing monetary, equitable, or administrative relief in any action alleging SEC fraud.
The other provision would allow the SEC to seek a civil penalty if an individual or entity has violated an existing federal court injunction or bar imposed by the SEC. Many believe this approach would be more efficient, effective, and flexible than the current civil contempt remedy.
Finally, under the SEC Penalties Act, the penalty relief available in administrative proceedings would be the same as it is in district court.
The nearly one-half of all U.S. households that own securities deserve a strong cop on the beat that has the tools it needs to go after fraudsters and the difficult cases arising from our increasingly complex financial markets. The SEC Penalties Act will help by giving the SEC more tools to demand meaningful accountability from Wall Street and protect investors, which in turn will improve transparency and increase confidence in our financial system. I urge my colleagues to support this important bipartisan legislation.
______ By Ms. LANDRIEU (for herself and Mrs. Shaheen): S. 289. A bill to extend the low-interest refinancing provisions under the Local Development Business Loan Program of the Small Business Administration; to the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to discuss the importance of small businesses in the United States. It cannot be stated enough that small businesses are the economic engines of our country. Small businesses also represent the essence of the American Dream. They are creators of new jobs and innovative technologies. In fact, over the last 15 years, businesses employing less than 500 people have created 93 percent of all new jobs and employed 58.6 million workers. Businesses employing less than 20 people alone employed 21.3 million workers. In my home state of Louisiana, small businesses make up about 98 percent of businesses. As Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I remain focused on the needs of these small businesses. That is why I am here today to introduce a bill that I believe will help spur job creation among small businesses.
As you know, right now our country is only slowly recovering from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. This economic downturn disproportionately affected small businesses and, in turn, stifled their ability to generate growth for the country. Sadly, since November 2008, 80 percent of the job losses have come from small businesses. An estimated 2.16 million jobs were lost in the private sector from November 2008 through February 2009--nearly 40 percent from businesses with less than 50 employees. Ten jobs lost here and five jobs there add up. These are the job losses that hurt our economy, our communities and our families.
With this in mind, I was proud to lead Congressional efforts to enact the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, Public Law 111-240. President Obama signed this legislation into law on September 27, 2010. This legislation focused on the three ``C's'' important to small businesses: Capital, Contracting, and Counseling. Today I would like to focus on Capital and more specifically, on the Small Business Administration's 504 Loan Refinancing Program, which unfortunately expired in September 2012.
The 504 loan program is a long-term financing tool for economic development that provides small businesses with long-term, fixed-rate loans to help them acquire major fixed assets and real estate for expansion or modernization. The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 allowed small businesses to use the 504 loan program to refinance certain qualifying existing debt for 2 years. While loan volumes were relatively low in the program's first year, the SBA made a number of program modifications to encourage and allow more small businesses to take advantage of the long terms and low interest rates offered by the program. In fiscal year 2012, the program's second and final year, the SBA approved over 2,400 refinancings for over $2.2 billion to small businesses.
Unfortunately, on September 27, 2012, the program expired just as it was gaining traction in the small business community. Over the past year, in my conversations with small business owners and in testimonies given in roundtables and hearings before the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I have consistently heard the need to extend this portion of the 504 loan program. The bill that I am introducing today would extend for 5 years the provision allowing small business owners to use Small Business Administration, SBA, 504 loans to refinance existing commercial mortgages. Extending the 504 refinancing program is a commonsense way to help small [[Page S661]] businesses and create jobs. By allowing small businesses to refinance qualified commercial real estate debt, this program lowers their monthly mortgage payments at no cost to taxpayers. At a time when we are still facing high unemployment, this extension is one of many things that we should be doing to put more capital in the hands of America's job creators.
I would like to reiterate that this is not a new proposal, and it has consistently received bipartisan support. In total, last year I filed this extension either as a bill or an amendment four times. The 504 refinance provision extension was originally introduced as S. 2364 by Senators Snowe, Landrieu, Isakson, and Shaheen. Title II of the SUCCESS Act, which I introduced during the 112th Congress, also included the refinance provision. On July 12, 2012, the Senate voted on the SUCCESS Act as part of Senate Amendment 2521 to S. 2237, the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act of 2012. Although the amendment came up short of the 60 votes needed to end debate, the SUCCESS Act amendment received a strong 57 bipartisan votes, including five of my Republican colleagues. Finally, I included the provision in a substitute amendment that I cosponsored to the JOBS Act of 2012 and offered the 504 refinancing language as an amendment to the Veterans Jobs Bill. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come together in support of this common-sense, cost effective program.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: S. 289 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Commercial Real Estate and Economic Development Act of 2013'' or the ``CREED Act of 2013''.
SEC. 2. LOW-INTEREST REFINANCING UNDER THE LOCAL DEVELOPMENT BUSINESS LOAN PROGRAM.
(a) Repeal.--Section 1122(b) of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (15 U.S.C. 696 note) is repealed.
(b) Restoration of Low-interest Refinancing Provision.-- Subparagraph (C) of section 502(7) of the Small Business Investment Act of 1958 (15 U.S.C. 696(7)) (relating to refinancing not involving expansions), as in effect on September 25, 2012, shall be in effect during the period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act and ending 5 years after that date of enactment.