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Council of Institutional Investors Is ‘Deeply Troubled’ by Financial Choice Act

CalPERS is among 53 co-signers of a letter sent to the House due to concerns the bill threatens “safeguards” for market oversight.

  • Sheila Dang

The Council of Institutional Investors, an association of more than 120 employee benefit funds and endowments, is “deeply troubled” by parts of the Financial Choice Act of 2017, which it says would threaten safeguards for oversight of companies and markets.

The group raised its concerns in a letter sent May 17 to all members of the House of Representatives, saying the bill would jeopardize “sensible reforms that investors need to hold management and boards of public companies accountable, and that foster trust in the integrity of the markets.”

The Act, introduced in April by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, aims to end taxpayer bailouts of banks, increase accountability from financial regulators, and reform the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Act would repeal sections and titles of the Dodd-Frank Act that “limit or inhibit” capital growth, including the Volcker Rule, which prohibits banks from investing in hedge funds or private equity funds.

The Act passed a Financial Services Committee vote on May 4. The House may vote as soon as the week of May 21, according to a statement this week from CII.

The CII’s letter criticizing the bill was co-signed 53 institutional investors, including the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, and the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System.

The association said the bill would roll back curbs on abusive pay practices at U.S. companies, and restrict the right of shareholders to vote for directors in contested board seats. It also said the Act would set high cost hurdles on shareholders wishing to make a proposal for a company’s annual meeting, by requiring shareholders to own 1 percent of a stock for three years, up from the current rule of $2,000 worth of stock for one year.

CII fails to appreciate that the Financial Choice Act will expand access to capital for small businesses so they can grow and create jobs, said Sarah Rozier, spokeswoman for the Financial Services Committee, in an emailed statement.

“This will foster economic growth for all Americans, including investors in these companies, not just those at the top — which is why the bill is supported by the Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, and all 50 state bankers associations,” Rozier said.