Saturday, August 19, 2017

THIS is the statue that should replace Gen. Lee's

Maggie L. Walker founded St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1903, a time when Jim Crow laws and institutionalized prejudice conspired to prevent blacks from borrowing money or from even having bank accounts. This was done, of course, to keep blacks in a position of economic servitude, a situation blacks still suffer from to this day.
Born a year before emancipation, Ms. Walker, the daughter of a former slave, is the first American women to have successfully opened a bank. (Having attempted in 2008 to raise $50 million to create a black-owned bank holding company to make capital investments in and own parts of new and existing black-owned U.S. banks, I can tell you that this is no easy task.) She did so in the South. In Richmond, Va., the capital of the confederacy. during a time when even white women were not allowed to vote. In the South. (Oh, and she also led a boycott of Richmond’s segregated trolley car system, 50 years before the Montgomery Bus Boycott.) I'd say she's worthy of statues all over the country.
Of course, the issue of black economic empowerment via the use of black banks is still a problem. There are those, like One United Bank, in Boston, who will claim the mantle Ms. Walker left. They are, however, spectacularly unworthy: the FDIC "accused the management of OneUnited Bank, one of the largest black-owned banks in the country, of running an unsound lending operation and ordered a top-to-bottom review of executive perks that included a 2008 Porsche and a housing allowance for a beach-front home in California." One United also foreclosed on the oldest black AME Zion church in Boston, despite offers of assistance from the City's mayor. Ms. Walker, I'm sure, would not be amused. (BTW, Liberty Bank and Trust in New Orleans is a much better run black owned bank.)
The lack of ethics cited above is a key part of the black bank legacy problem and why our economic forecasts, starting in 2011, predicted an 87% decline in the number of black banks, measured from the height of the black bank era, reached around 1994 when there were 55 black-owned banks in America.
To deal effectively with this problem, we suggest the federal government use a portion of the fines levied on Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and other banks to create a sizable ($100 million) capital fund to create and invest in black banks. 
This would be the best tribute to Ms. Walker.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Why we need a Global ICO Census and Database

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) recent report defines tokens sold through ICO offerings as “securities.” This is neither appropriate nor in the public interest. This definition will restrict the ability of startups to raise much needed capital without having to go to commercial banks, investment banks and venture capitalists, institutions who long ago abdicated their role in providing capital to deserving startups and small businesses. (Commercial banks, investment banks and venture capitalists focus on providing capital to a narrow group of non-minority and non female firms. As Uber and others (Google?) have shown, many of the women who dared work for these commercial bank, investment bank and venture capitalist supported firms found themselves harassed..and we know what happened when they sought funding.)

In a press release, the SEC concluded that anyone using "..distributed ledger or blockchain enabled means for capital raising (needs) to take appropriate steps to insure compliance with US federal securities laws.” This determination is inappropriately broad, and is sure to be overturned in Court, since the SEC does not have direct authority over currencies.

As we note in our report (https://www.prlog.org/12655138-creative- investment-issues- initial-coin- offering-ico-report.html) ICOs have features that resemble crowdfunding, venture capital and IPOs. They are simply a new tool for doing what Title III of the JOBS Act should have done - sourcing capital to innovative startups in an efficient way. Title III allows all companies with less than $1 billion in sales to raise up to $1 million dollars in equity or debt. This section of the JOBS Act was designed, as I note in my book, to create eBay-like sites that allow you to post your idea for a commercial venture online and then allows investors to purchase equity shares or stakes in it. Title III has, since 2016, in aggregate generated slightly over $50 million in committed capital. The law was signed in 2012. So far in 2017, ICO issuers have raised over $1 billion.

The SEC may have legitimate questions about the classification of ICOs, but their action simply confirms that regulators are protecting entrenched social and financial interests (not the public) from a new financial technology (blockchain) with almost unlimited potential.

In attempting to bring ICOs under federal securities laws, the SEC states that "participating in unregistered offerings may subject participants to..criminal enforcement proceedings." Of course, this is only true if you are not Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo or Standard and Poor's, institutions guilty of significant securities law violations before, during and after the financial crisis who have yet to be subject to criminal enforcement proceedings..

A key factor the SEC cites in its argument in favor of ICO regulation rests on “full and fair disclosure,” but Wells Fargo created two million fake accounts without disclosing this. If the SEC were actually concerned about the public interest, Wells would have faced charges immediately for violating disclosure regulations. Given this, one can legitimately question the public's ability, based on past performance, to trust the SEC to act in the public interest. As outlined this in our Transaction Cost Theory of the Financial Crisis, released in 2010, people are looking for financial instruments, institutions and regulators they can trust. The popularity of digital currency, decentralized structures and new ways of raising capital is, quite simply, the result of this lack of trust.

The nature of blockchain is such that this technology — not regulators — will win in the long term. It would be better for the SEC to recognize this and to simply call for ICOs to list on a globally centralized, publicly accessible database, maintained by the SEC, at no cost to ICO issuers, and with no penalties (other than fines for deliberately fraudulent registrations.)

At this point in the development of this marketplace, having a comprehensive database of all ICOs is more valuable and appropriate than subjecting these new firms to full and complete SEC registration. The agency can revisit this in, say, a year or two to determine if more comprehensive regulation is required, but for the next six to twelve months, this should be the regulatory position of the SEC with respect to the new ICO marketplace.

Friday, August 11, 2017

SEC takes jab at startups while leaving the big banks alone


The Securities and Exchange Commission’s concern about “initial coin offerings” is understandable. There are significant problems in the ICO marketplace, but new markets always have issues. Unfortunately, the SEC’s recent restrictions defining the tokens sold through such offerings as “securities” completely miss the point and once again will constrain the ability of startups to raise much-needed capital without having to go to a bank or venture capitalist first.

See: https://www.americanbanker.com/opinion/sec-takes-jab-at-startups-while-leaving-the-big-banks-alone