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October 5, 2015

Fact Sheet: Better Markets’ Response to Wall Street’s Latest Attack

Wall Street has been trying to shut down, shut up or smear Better Markets since it was founded five years ago.  Wall Street hates anyone willing to stand up to them or who can’t be bought.  That’s Better Markets and its relentless fight for the public interest against Wall Street’s special interests.  That’s proved in hundreds of comment letters, in hundreds of meetings with regulators, policy makers, elected officials and many others, in dozens of legal filings and in the mountain of other work Better Markets has done since being founded five years ago. 

Better Markets’ independence and effectiveness on the public’s behalf is what gets Wall Street so mad and why it has been shopping a fabricated so-called story for months to anyone in the media who would listen.  They all rejected the pitch as ludicrous, but Wall Street doesn’t give up and finally got the planted fairy tale to run in the right- wing media.  However, it reads like it was written by a Wall Street lobbyist or purchased mouthpiece, and is so factually wrong it is laughable. 

The premise of the story is that Better Markets President and CEO Dennis Kelleher is so powerful and influential that his mere mention of a public company is enough to dramatically move the stock price.  That’s true for the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank and the Secretary of the Treasury, who can and do move stock markets when they speak, but, unfortunately, not true when Mr. Kelleher speaks. 

In particular, the story speculates that an obscure comment by Mr. Kelleher hours -into a Senate Banking Committee hearing on March 25, 2015 was nonetheless part of a grand secret strategy to move the price of MetLife stock.  The key problem with this fabrication is that no one even noticed what Mr. Kelleher said and it had no influence on the stock because, unlike Fed Chair Yellen and Treasury Secretary Lew, the public markets don’t jump when Mr. Kelleher speaks.  Another problem is that the markets can’t move on information it is unaware of and no one noticed and no one reported on Mr. Kelleher’s remarks, which were to a largely empty hearing room.

But the laughs don’t stop there.  The other key claim is that Mr. Kelleher was advocating for MetLife to be designated by FSOC so that the stock price would drop.  However, the story fails to disclose that Mr. Kelleher not only had no power or authority over the designation of MetLife, but MetLife had been designated by FSOC on December 18, 2014, more than three months before Mr. Kelleher testified on March 25, 2015.  (In an attempt to pile on and make things appear even worse, the reporter also mentions Prudential Insurance, but fails to disclose that it was designated as a nonbank SIFI in September 2013, sixteen months before the March 25, 2015 hearing.  Confirming the total disregard for facts, the reporter also throws in Citigroup, which is not a nonbank and not subject to designation by FSOC at all because it is regulated as a bank holding company by the Fed.)

Another provably false claim is that Better Markets failed to disclose the relationship with founder, primary funder and Chairman of the Board Michael Masters. But nothing could be further from the truth. Better Markets has been fully transparent on our website, in TV appearances and in various other media outlets like the New York Times, as well as in our publicly available 990 forms.

In fact, in July of this year, just three months ago, Mr. Kelleher also recognized Mr. Masters during Better Markets’ event highlighting the fifth anniversary of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, which was broadcast live nationwide on CSPAN television and CSPAN radio. Tellingly, almost all of the information in the story is from publicly available sources, primarily disclosures by Better Markets itself.  It is beyond false to claim that Better Markets has been “covertly taking money” from Mr. Masters.

The story also suggests Mr. Kelleher was pushing for the designation of MetLife in his testimony before the Senate Banking Committee during a hearing on the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) and its designations of nonbank financial institutions.  But, in fact, Mr. Kelleher was defending the power, authority and need for FSOC to designate nonbank firms that could pose a systemic threat to the American people, firms like AIG, money market funds, Goldman Sachs and similar types of nonbanks that blew up in 2008 and required taxpayer or government bailouts. 

Nevertheless, the story misleadingly states that he “told Senator Warren that MetLife and other large insurance companies should be classified as ‘systemically important financial institutions.’”  What Mr. Kelleher actually said was, “The big, large, complex, global insurance companies certainly can be and they should be, if appropriate according to the criteria, subject to the designation process and designation if, after that process, they’re deemed to meet the criteria.” You can find his opening statement here, his full testimony here, and a video of the hearing here.

It would take too long to rebut all of the mistruths, insinuations, omissions, misleading statements and industry spin in the article, but one more requires mention.  The article – ironically – fails to disclose the most basic facts showing clear bias of the two people quoted in the article making some of the baseless claims.  One, Jill Sommers, is only identified as “a former commissioner of the CFTC who was appointed by President Obama for a second term in 2009.”  But, the reporter fails to disclose that she was the Republican appointee to the CFTC, opposed virtually every single position Better Markets has ever taken on financial reform, now works as a hired gun at a Wall Street “consulting firm,” and whose husband is Chief of Staff to one of Wall Street’s most reliable allies, House Speaker Boehner.  The other, a so-called “former SEC counsel” (of which there are thousands) had so much courage of his convictions that he insisted on being quoted anonymously, almost certainly because he works for Wall Street, which would have been readily apparent if he or she was public disclosed.  The hypocrisy and double standard could not be richer in an article falsely alleging nondisclosure to not disclose basic facts about those making the false allegations.

The key to the broader smear, however, is cherry-picking a tiny sliver of Better Markets’ work, just one or two activities or statements, in an attempt to mislead readers into believing that our work is meant to favor a single person or group. But, that requires ignoring a full five- year record that demonstrates to anyone willing to look at fairly that Better Markets takes whatever position it believes is in the best interest of the public, regardless of who it benefits or does not:  Better Markets has filed hundreds of comment letters, held hundreds of meetings with regulators with and policy makers, and been involved in dozens of court cases across a wide range of financial issues.

In light of that vast, deep, years-long record, cherry picking one comment on one subject from one hearing from about 2 ½ hours into the 3 ½ hour hearing six months ago that no one noticed at the time and no one has ever commented on until industry allies began pitching it to reporters shows how biased the attack is.  The full record of Better Markets’ activities and the facts contradict every part of the spin. 

The article is right, however, in saying that, “[t]hough it was only founded in 2010, [Better Markets] has quickly become a key player in the regulatory battles wracking the finance industry after the 2008 economic crisis.” That’s why Wall Street and its allies have relentlessly tried to stop us.  They can’t do it on the merits or with the facts, which don’t support them, so they resort to a smear campaign of speculation, innuendo and misleading statements or suggestions.  They will do whatever they can to stop an effective force like Better Markets from working on behalf of the American people’s interests rather than Wall Street’s special interests. Their attacks are a recognition of that effectiveness and a badge of honor that we wear proudly.  

Wall Street is used to using its money and might to protect its interests without anyone standing in its way. But make no mistake, Better Markets will continue to fight Wall Street to protect the public and build a safer, sounder financial system that works for all Americans. 

 
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