By Ian Salisbury
No one might have expected it, but one of the most controversial proposals in the recent Jumpstart Our Business Startups — or JOBS — Act, is to lift the decades old ban on hedge-fund advertising. The bill, which passed with big majorities in both houses in Congress and was signed by President Obama in April, was touted as a way to create jobs.
That has many observers wondering: How exactly will letting George Soros and John Paulson peddle their wares on CNBC translate into paychecks for guys in the breadline?
A big part of the answer may have to do with law of unintended consequences. The SEC rules that prohibit hedge funds from seeking out investors also affect businesses that most Americans probably associate more closely with growing the economy. Think start-ups that want to reach investors other than traditional players like venture capital firms, or venture capital firms themselves looking for a wider audience.
But that only raises a different question. When this all plays out, who will end up benefitting the most? Technology entrepreneurs or Wall Street hot shots? To get an answer we called the office of Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), chairman of a key House subcommittee charged with oversight of the Securities and Exchange Commission and a high-profile supporter of the JOBS Act. McHenry wrote a widely-reported letter in August accusing the regulator of “abdicating [its] responsibility to follow the law” for failing to act soon enough on the provision that will sweep away restrictions on hedge fund ads.
He’s also a well-known advocate of using economic research such as cost-benefit analysis to weight the value of potential regulations, often questioning SEC chairman Mary Schapiro about whether new rules might threaten jobs.
And McHenry may have a big incentive to make friends on Wall Street. According to OpenSecrets.org, which tracks political giving, McHenry’s campaign committee raised more than $400,000 from financial services this election cycle, four times his contributions from any other sector.
McHenry’s press secretary declined to provide an estimate of how many jobs allowing hedge fund advertising will actually create, and didn’t respond to questions regarding campaign finance. But he did note that the JOBS Act “passed with exceptional bi-partisan support,” adding: “Congressman McHenry could not be more proud of his role in passing this critical legislation for entrepreneurs and small businesses across the country.”