News and Commentary

VAN VOORHIS: Massachusetts Voters Should Drain The Swamp This November

President Trump campaigned on draining the swamp in Washington, and his efforts have been largely successful to date, from tax reform, to financial regulation, and more. However, it’s imperative that we focus on the same goals at the state level to continue fighting corruption and greed in government.

Voters in Massachusetts, home to Ted Kennedy, Elizabeth Warren, and even other anti-capitalist progressives, are showing reticence to re-elect William Galvin, one of the most infamous and overzealous Wall Street regulators in the country. Galvin, who has served as Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth since 1995, heads his campaign website with a call to donate and “help fight fraud in the financial services industry.”

In a state that has recently elected Republicans such as Sen. Scott Brown, Gov. Mitt Romney, and Gov. Charlie Baker, there is a real chance for voters to send a conservative to replace Galvin come November.

While most Americans would have no trouble with fighting true fraud in any industry, it is interesting to see how socialist politicians like Galvin, Sanders, and Warren conveniently use the cover of “fighting for the little guy” to enact policies that result in the opposite. It has become apparent that for these bureaucrats, anyone with the label of “financial services company” is perceived as the equivalent of a Madoff-style scheme, irrespective of the immense benefits these companies provide to society and the working American.

Galvin has made headlines for the record-breaking fines he has levied against broker-dealers — which totaled $68,000,000 in a recent 12-month period, while “FINRA fined its broker-dealer members $78.2 million [in 2012] and $68 million in 2011, according to an annual study of FINRA sanctions by Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP.”

As InvestmentNews’ Bruce Kelly notes, “William Galvin is a securities regulator for only one state, but you would never know it by the volume of the fines he imposes on the brokerage industry. Indeed, when it comes to inflicting monetary pain on broker-dealers, the Massachusetts Securities Division is more on par with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc., which is the regulator for the broker-dealer industry in all 50 states.”

Galvin’s fines — which are on par with FINRA — are by his own admission, “to whip the industry into shape.” In an interview with The Wall Street Journal about recent fines he has issued, Galvin told the paper that “the purpose of the penalty is to deter the conduct. If $2 million didn’t do it, maybe $30 million will.”

Kelly continues, “If Mr. Galvin’s record as an aggressive regulator compares favorably to FINRA, it is even more impressive when compared with his peers in other states. Last year, state securities regulators nationwide levied fines or penalties of more than $115 million, according to Bob Webster, a spokesman for the North American Securities Administrators Association Inc. In other words, in the past 12 months, penalties and fines by the Massachusetts Securities Division represent an amount close to 50% of the total that states levied against the industry last year.”

What is particularly bothersome about Galvin’s practices is not so much the vast amount of fines he seeks — specifically for punitive measures — it is the fact that he has seemed unwilling to stop the persecution of hard working American companies when it is not politically advantageous to him.

Galvin has pursued action surrounding companies like SII Investments, LPL Financial, and Securities America Inc. Yesterday, Galvin announced an investigation into brokers’ selling practices in connection with GPB Capital private placement offerings. GPB is a five-year-old Alternative Asset Management startup with interests in automotive dealers, waste management, and physical therapy practices. GPB’s offerings are now a victim of Galvin’s unsubstantiated claims towards those selling the product. Their site shows the company’s focus on investing in everyday Americans and their businesses — far from deserving of scrutiny.

Similarly, SII Investments has focused on funding real estate projects in the state, which creates tremendous economic growth for local economies. Galvin has put companies like GPB Capital, SII and many others in his crosshairs simply because of the industry they work in and the misconceived glory of taking down small financial firms and calling them “Wall Street.”

Just recently, Galvin’s office has announced a sweep of 63 broker dealers who sell GPB’s private placements. In a statement, Galvin said, “While my Securities Division’s investigation is in the very nascent stages … I must also express my serious concerns regarding the expected proposal by the SEC to expand who can participate in private securities offerings. Without a strong fiduciary rule to prevent sales practice abuses, it is utter folly not to know that main street investors will be hurt.”

But of course, though he openly states the investigation is in its “nascent stages”, this doesn’t hold back Galvin’s persecution of these companies under dubious or often altogether missing evidence, deriving from the fact that he needs some facet of society to blame to continue winning election. And of course, the media traction for a non-story seems to be of most interest.

The sheer amount of noise that Galvin makes does nothing more than win him votes with the anti-capitalist following he has, while negatively affecting American small business owners. Treating the companies that fund American innovation under the mantra “guilty until proven innocent” is a foolish strategy that hurts everyday Americans.

The fact that he has been in office almost continuously since 1975, and as Secretary of the Commonwealth since 1995, is a testament to that fact. Massachusetts would be wise to reject Galvin and vote for someone who believes in free-markets and the world-changing benefits they produce for our society.

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