The US House Financial Services Committee has voted to pass the Investor Protection Act, which is part of a package of bills focused on widening financial industry oversight and investor protection. The bill increases the US Security and Exchange Commission’s authority and doubles the agency’s funding, giving it another $1.115 billion for the 2010 fiscal year.
HR 3817 has a clause that would exempt businesses with a $75 million or lower value from a Sarbanes-Oxley requirement that auditors must verify management’s declaration regarding a concern’s internal controls over financial reporting. The SEC had exempted small businesses from SOX”s Section 404(b) attestation requirement, and the exception was to be lifted in 2011. Another amendment added to the bill would confirm the SEC’s authority to rule on shareowners’ right to vote on corporate board directors.
The Investor Protection Act also terminates the inclusion of mandatory arbitration in contracts in the event that investors wish to file securities fraud claims. It also enforces the fiduciary obligation that investment advisers and broker dealers have to make client’s interests their priority.
Whistleblowers would be given incentives for cases leading to sanctions of over $1 million. The SEC would be able to pay a reward of up to 30% of sanctions to the informants involved. The agency could also issue fines for cease-and-desist cases. It would also have greater subpoena powers.
The House Financial Services Committee has recommended other bills compelling a number of derivatives that are privately traded “over the counter” to pass through regulated exchanges and clearing houses. The bill also calls for dealers to be subject to more extensive transparency, business conduct, and capital requirements. It lets investors file lawsuits against investment firms that recklessly or knowingly publish ratings that are inaccurate and compels private equity and hedge fund advisers to register with the SEC.
Financial Services Committee Approves Investor Protection Act, House.gov, November 4, 2009
House Committee Approves Investor Protection Act, SocialFunds.com
House Financial Services Committee