Updates

Investor rights on chopping block in U.S. Senate (updated)

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

(See updates (click Keep Reading): Today, the U.S. Senate will consider the House-passed "JOBS" Act, which weakens investor protections -- many passed after the Internet bubble burst and Enron's follow-on bankruptcy destroyed jobs and retirement savings. Its supporters claim the bill to make it easier for small companies to navigate SEC rules and  thereby promote small company growth (which theoretically creates, you guessed it, jobs), has already been thoroughly vetted. Yet, the bill is opposed by some of the Senate's most thoughtful investor champions and opposed by U.S. PIRG and numerous consumer and investor organizations. We support a substitute to be offered by Senators Jack Reed (RI), Mary Landrieu (LA) and Carl Levin (MI) because it protects investors. But if the substitute fails to get 60 votes, the JOBS Act will be non-amendable under an ill-advised special fast-track system set up to speed it through.

Last year, in the 175 days that the U.S. House of Representatives was in session, it passed more than 190 anti-regulatory bills. They have been putting special interests over public safety and they are still at it. Next up is H.R. 4078, the “Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act of 2012,” a bill that wrongly calls for a halt on all public health and consumer safety protections until the unemployment rate reaches six percent. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up the bill on Tuesday, March 20.

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Ryan Budget Devastating to Pell, Windfall for Special Interests

Chairman Ryan's proposal recommends slashing Pell Grants which help more than 9 million students pay for college at a time of rising college costs, tight family finances and a job market that increasingly requires post-secondary education.

You may not remember any pre-2008 scandals -- dot.com bubble?; Enron scandal? --  since they are so yesterday's news. Don't worry. The House and Senate don't remember, either. If the Senate has its way with quick passage of the misnamed already-House-passed Jobs Act, -- better named by the New York Times columnist Gail Collins as the "Just Open Bucket Shops Act" -- conflicted analysts will make stuff up again, government watchdogs like the SEC and PCAOB will be chained, and small and novice investors will be looking at "crowd-funded websites" from good guys and bad guys, too, including often-fraudulent Chinese IPOs. Things are so bad that the Senate's leading investor champions aren't even sure they can get enough votes to modify the proposal -- let alone block it -- even with a compromise alternative (letter from PIRG-backed AFR/CFA). Only in Washington.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Following the Money 2012

This report is U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s third annual ranking of states’ progress toward “Transparency 2.0” – a new standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility. The past year has seen continued progress, with new states providing online access to government spending information and several states pioneering new tools to further expand citizens’ access to spending information and engagement with government.

A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) staff report confirms what we've known all along: The big credit bureaus pressure identity theft victims into buying overpriced, underperforming credit monitoring subscription packages.

After House passage of the mislabeled Jobs Act, action shifts to to the Senate in a misguided, PIRG-opposed bi-partisan effort to weaken investor protection laws. SF Chronicle financial columnist Kathleen Pender and the NY Times ed board both rip the idea. While Congress appears trapped in a zombie-like fugue state, pretend zombies led by Iowa PIRG (WHO-TV Des Moines) marched against nuclear power this weekend. All this and more consumer  news of the week, in case you missed it.

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Health Care

New Health Exchange Rules Help States Move Forward

The rules released today by the federal Department of Health and Human Services put states in the driver’s seat when it comes to setting up new health benefits exchanges.  

Consumer fraud summit today will be webcast

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

UPDATE: LINK TO C-SPAN WEBCAST ARCHIVE (My PANEL here and entire event here.)

In times of financial calamity, fraudsters come out to take your last dollar. This afternoon U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will host a consumer financial fraud summit (agenda) at Georgetown Law School near Union Station bringing together enforcers from the DOJ, FTC, state agencies and consumer groups. I'll be on a panel discussing business opportunity frauds. Other panels will be on elder fraud and tax scams. The event is free and open to the public and will be webcast.

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Stop Using Pink Slime in School Lunches

Parents have a right to know what is in their children’s school lunches. The USDA should ensure that only high quality, nutritious meat is used for the school lunch program.

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Priority Action

The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening these lifesaving medicines. Call on big restaurants to do their part and stop buying meat raised with critical antibiotics.

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