House Passes Bill to Bolster SEC Enforcement

A bill to aid the regulatory agency passes the House, but a short legislative calendar could prevent the Senate from passing it.
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The House of Representatives returned to work this week and turned its attention to Wall Street. The House passed H.R. 6513 -- the Securities Act of 2008 - which, if passed, would strengthen the enforcement efforts of the

Securities and Exchange Commission

.

The legislation would accomplish several goals. First, it would aid the SEC in preventing individuals who have committed fraud in one area to work in another area. It would also update confidentiality information obtained by SEC, allow the agency to share information with foreign law enforcement and regulators and extend SIPC insurance to futures contracts held in a portfolio.

Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D., Pa.) sponsored the bill. He spoke of the benefits of the legislation to investors and the market:

"As a result of the current turmoil in our capital markets, we must act once again to boost investor protections. Because we cannot sit idly and wait for the economy to fix itself, I worked on a bipartisan basis to draft, introduce, consider and pass H.R. 6513. Perhaps most importantly, H.R. 6513 raises the maximum fine levels for punishing bad actors and wrongdoers in the securities marketplace."

Presently, no similar bill exists in the Senate. Kanjorski's office confirmed that the Senate Banking committee has expressed interest in taking up the legislation. However, because of the short legislative calendar this year, time may not allow for passage in the Senate. The House and Senate are likely to adjourn at the end of September as members return home to campaign in what promises to be a hard-fought election season. This leaves little time to accomplish any legislative work.

Furthermore, the Senate may prove preoccupied with the Treasury's seizure of

Fannie Mae

(FNM)

and

Freddie Mac

(FRE)

, if not oversight of another

rumored acquisition

of another Wall Street firm,

Lehman Brothers

(LEH)

.

The SEC has come under sharp criticism for its action -- if not inaction -- this year, and possibly the loudest voice came from our own

Jim Cramer

.

Christopher Cox, chairman of the SEC and former congress member, hailed the passage of the legislation. He said in a press release:

"The House of Representatives today passed measures that the SEC requested to improve the securities laws and provide additional tools for the SEC's enforcement program that already is seen as the gold standard around the world. Policing the markets and keeping investors' money safe has never been more important, and so this legislation comes at a critical time."

In separate news, the House is considering up to

$25 billion in loans

to the U.S. auto industry, according to a

Reuters

report Friday.