Last week, freshman Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., introduced the Focusing the SEC on Its Mission Act (H.R. 1626). If passed,... View ArticleContinue reading
Many of the senators voting on Mary Jo White's nomination to head the SEC today got campaign contributions from her high-powered legal clients.Continue reading
Sunlight has long been an advocate for not only improved transparency of government institutions but also for thoughtful transparency measures that have open data standards in mind. Today we submitted a letter to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) supporting a proposed rule change that would give voters more information about who is trying to influence bond ballot issues. The Board is working toward improved disclosure of ballot campaign contributions by those with certain connections to municipal bonds. We applaud this step toward greater transparency on an issue that deeply impacts local governments and their constituents. Voters have a clear interest in understanding the context of the bonds approved for their communities. Investigative journalists have already used these kinds of disclosures to write stories like this one from Voice of San Diego, which exposed the trend of those who contributed to school bond campaigns receiving the contracts they spent money influencing. The improved disclosures MSRB is mandating will be available through the Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) system, which is the free public platform for searching municipal bond information maintained by MSRB. Our comments also suggest the Board consider two more steps it could take toward 21st century disclosure.Continue reading
Every day in Washington, DC, thousands of government officials are at work writing, revising, and publishing regulations affecting everything from... View ArticleContinue reading
Regardless of who wins the presidential election, the next administration will have enormous power to say how open our government will be. We have organized our priorities for the next administration below, to share where we think our work on executive branch issues will be focused, in advance of the election results. From money in politics to open data, spending, and freedom of information, we'll be working to open up the Executive Branch. We'd love to hear any suggestions you might have for Sunlight's Executive Branch work, please leave additional ideas in the comments below. (We'll also be sharing other recommendations soon, including a legislative agenda for the 113th Congress, and a suite of reform proposals for the House and Senate rules packages.) Sunlight Reform Agenda for the Next Administration:Continue reading
A new breed of transparency advocate is making itself heard this week, taking to the streets and to corporate boardrooms... View ArticleContinue reading
One Wall Street revolver will continue a very successful post-regulatory agency career with a newly created position at Bank of America, the nation's largest bank.
Gary Lynch, who was the head of enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission in the 1980’s, most recently left Morgan Stanley where he was the financial giant’s vice chairman and before that an executive vice president and chief legal officer for the firm. Prior to his time at Morgan Stanley he was the chief legal counsel for Credit Suisse – an international financial services company.
Lynch will now be the global chief ...Continue reading
After a powerful committee chairman and several corporate interests wrote to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requesting an extension of the comment period for the agency’s proposed regulations requiring that companies disclose when they use “conflict minerals,” the agency granted the request.
The new regulations are mandated under a little-noticed provision in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act calling for companies using conflict minerals to disclose whether they were mined by rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or neighboring countries, where metals such as gold are mined under inhumane conditions and fund war ...Continue reading
Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) chairwoman Mary Schapiro received nearly $9 million in compensation and retirement benefits from the Financial Industry... View ArticleContinue reading
A flowery title for a blog post, I'll admit, but I hope that at least the Le Guin fans out there will forgive me. The problem of knowing something's true name is in the news, most particularly in this story from Wired's Spencer Ackerman:
Through a "joint venture," the notorious private security firm Blackwater has won a piece of a five-year State Department contract worth up to $10 billion, Danger Room has learned.
Apparently, there is no misdeed so big that it can keep guns-for-hire from working for the government. And this is despite a campaign pledge from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ban the company from federal contracts.
Eight private security firms have won State's giant Worldwide Protective Services contract, the big Foggy Bottom partnership to keep embassies and their inhabitants safe. Two of those firms are longtime State contract holders DynCorp and Triple Canopy. The others are newcomers to the big security contract: EOD Technology, SOC, Aegis Defense Services, Global Strategies Group, Torres International Services and International Development Solutions LLC.
Don't see any of Blackwater's myriad business names on there? That's apparently by design. Blackwater and the State Department tried their best to obscure their renewed relationship. As Danger Room reported on Wednesday, Blackwater did not appear on the vendors' list for Worldwide Protective Services. And the State Department confirms that the company, renamed Xe Services, didn't actually submit its own independent bid. Instead, they used a blandly-named cut out, "International Development Solutions," to retain a toehold into State's lucrative security business. No one who looks at the official announcement of the contract award would have any idea that firm is connected to Blackwater.
This is a troubling story. But for those of us who work with government data, it's an all-too-familiar one. Navigating the link between an entity's name and its identity is very, very difficult. Sunlight Reporting Group wrote about a similar problem back in January: a blacklist of contractors called the Excluded Party List System has been failing to do its job, partly because of difficulties in positively identifying the companies entered into it. People and even companies can have similar names, or the names entered into the system can contain typos. It's not uncommon to wind up with a fuzzy sort of match, and then to have to use whatever additional data is on hand -- an address, or a date, whatever -- to add confidence to the guess.Continue reading