The Hardworking 111th
This Congress has been one of the most active and consequential in recent memory, and public companies cannot escape its reach.
An active Congress Few, if any, U.S. industries will escape the impact of the far-reaching policies of the 111th Congress. Indeed, it is difficult to recall a period in which U.S.-listed public companies faced more intense scrutiny from demanding lawmakers, assertive regulators, an aggressive news media or a skeptical public.
Major legislative actions After convening in January 2009, following the most serious financial crisis in decades, the 111th Congress took aim at reviving the economy and restoring faith in financial markets. Within a month of President Obama’s inauguration, Congress adopted a stimulus package that sharply divided lawmakers. Supporters credit the stimulus with helping the U.S. save jobs and avoid a second Great Depression; opponents argue that the plan diverted investment from the private sector and put the country on a path of unsustainable fiscal deficits.
Although the early momentum behind financial reform legislation gave way to partisan bickering and delay, Congress eventually adopted landmark legislation that will rewrite the rules governing the financial industry. As regulators work to implement the bill’s major provisions, careful attention must be paid to ensuring that the new law addresses the core failures that precipitated the crisis without creating more confusion for market participants and restricting access to capital markets.
Perhaps the most significant legislative action took place last March, when President Obama signed into law a bill overhauling the entire U.S. health-care system — from the way doctors practice medicine to how employers provide health coverage to their employees. As the provisions of this bill take effect during the next several years, nearly every company listed on NYSE Euronext’s U.S. exchanges will have to confront and overcome new challenges in the health-care market.
A look ahead Even if the November elections alter the political balance in Washington, the current Congress will remain in office until Jan. 3, 2011. Many observers expect an active “lame duck” Congress to attempt action on major issues, including energy and the environment, immigration reform and tax policy. But absent such action, the 112th Congress will have a full agenda when it is sworn in early next year.
NYSE Euronext: A Voice in Washington for All Listed Companies
As companies navigate a difficult economy, business leaders must increasingly focus attention not just on Main Street or even on Wall Street but also on the action at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
For the past year, we at NYSE Euronext have ramped up our presence in Washington to make sure the interests of the 3,000 companies listed on our U.S. exchanges and the 35 million Americans they employ are represented in the policy-making process. We believe that NYSE Euronext can add to individual companies’ efforts in Washington by acting as a voice for the listed community as a whole.
We have built a strong team, and we are already having an impact. In the financial reform debate, NYSE Euronext fought successfully to reduce the regulatory burden of Sarbanes-Oxley by winning an exemption from outside audit requirements for public companies with market caps of less than $75 million. This success provides a foothold to drive further reform in the 112th Congress.