WASHINGTON ― House and Senate committees will consider an obscure bill called the “Fair Access to Investment Research Act” on Thursday. It will not be a major media event. The bill, which will likely sail through Congress, will not cause a new financial crisis, bar millions from accessing health insurance or undermine any foreign policy alliances. But it will help one company — Bank of America — make money by avoiding lawsuits.
Bank of America is the only corporation that has lobbied on the bill, according to the federal lobbying disclosure database.
“It’s all Bank of America,” notes one Democratic aide. “Nobody else has come in to talk about this.”
Rest assured, distressed citizens: Even in an era of legislative chaos”}}”>chaos and political mayhem”}}”>mayhem, Congress is still finding time to deliver detailed, targeted favors to corporate interests. Things are basically back to normal.
Brokerage firms like BofA ― which declined to comment for this story ― make money by recommending and selling securities to clients. But many of them also issue research reports on various companies and investments. Research reports on traditional stocks are currently protected against lawsuits for botching facts or omitting important information. The bill BofA is pushing would extend those protections to reports on investments known as exchange-traded funds, or ETFs. But the way the bill is written would shield significant conflicts of interest in the ETF world from a host of lawsuits, for no apparent reason.