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WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives today passed Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Chris Van Hollen’s (D-Md.) bill to protect American investors and their savings from foreign companies that operate on U.S. stock exchanges while refusing to submit to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) oversight. The Senate passed the bill unanimously in May.

“Communist China is right now using U.S. stock exchanges to exploit American workers and families—people who put their retirement and college savings in public companies. U.S. policy is letting China flout rules that American companies play by, and it’s dangerous. Today, the House joined the Senate in rejecting a toxic status quo. I’m thankful to Sen. Van Hollen and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting this commonsense solution to a threat that’s never been more urgent. President Trump has led the way in calling Chinese Communist dishonesty to account, and I’m glad to see this bill head to his desk,” said Kennedy.

“Millions of American families rely on modest investments to retire, send their kids to college, and weather financial emergencies. But many have been cheated out of their money after investing in seemingly-legitimate Chinese companies that are not held to the same standards as other publicly listed companies. This bill rights that wrong, ensuring that all companies on the U.S. exchanges abide by the same rules. I’ve been proud to work with Senator Kennedy on this bipartisan legislation, and I’m glad to see it pass the House with such strong support. I urge the President to sign this bill into law immediately,” said Van Hollen.

The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act prohibits securities of a company from being listed on any of the U.S. securities exchanges if the company has failed to comply with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s (PCAOB) audits for three years in a row.

The bill would also require public companies to disclose whether they are owned or controlled by a foreign government, including China’s communist government. 

Many Americans invest in U.S. stock exchanges as part of their retirement and college savings, and dishonest companies operating on the exchanges put Americans at risk, as Luckin Coffee did. This legislation protects the interest of hardworking American investors by ensuring that foreign companies traded in America are subject to the same independent audit requirements that apply to their competitors in America and other countries.

“ASA applauds Senators Kennedy and Van Hollen, and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisles, for coming together to protect American investors and retirement savers from fraudulent companies controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). For far too long, the CCP has exploited American investors to finance its cyber army, its technology-driven elimination of civil liberties, its human rights abuses, and its destruction of the environment,” said American Securities Association CEO Chris Iacovella. 

Background:

Congress established the PCAOB to inspect audits of public companies, ensuring the information companies provide to the public is accurate, independent and trustworthy.

Currently, China’s communist government refuses to allow the PCAOB to inspect audits of companies registered in China and Hong Kong. Such companies represent a keen risk to American investors as nearly 11 percent of all securities class action lawsuits in 2011 were brought against Chinese-owned companies accused of misrepresenting themselves in financial documents.

According to the SEC, 224 U.S.-listed companies are located in countries where there are obstacles to PCAOB inspections. These companies have a combined market capitalization of more than $1.8 trillion.

In the last 10 years, the number of Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges has increased significantly, as those firms take advantage of the capital available in America.

The bill text is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) welcomed news that an estimated $39 million is headed to repair Interstate 20 in Caddo and Bossier Parishes after the lawmakers worked to help secure funding for the project.

“Louisianians and our roads take a lot of hits from Mother Nature, so we can’t afford to stop investing in infrastructure at home. I’m glad to see this $39 million reinvested in the road that the hardworking people of Caddo and Bossier use to build our state’s economy and care for their communities,” said Kennedy.

"Infrastructure investment has been one of my top priorities since I was elected to Congress. I’m very pleased to see that federal funding we secured will now dramatically improve the condition of I-20. This reconstruction will be a great blessing to the thousands of citizens who travel across north Louisiana every day, and we look forward to its completion,” said Johnson.

Background: 

The majority of the Interstate 20 project is funded by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Performance Program. The program, established under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, allows the federal government to cover up to 90 percent of the cost of certain interstate highway projects

Kennedy and Johnson supported the continuing resolution, signed into law by President Trump on Oct. 1, 2020, that extended the FAST Act beyond its original expiration date of Sept. 30, 2020.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $449,983 in grant funding from the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) to support workforce training projects in three Louisiana cities.

“Louisiana’s workers are determined, and giving them more training options will support both their professional success and the health of communities in Baton Rouge, Thibodaux and New Orleans. It’s good to see this DRA funding focus on sectors that help our state thrive today and prepare for tomorrow,” said Kennedy.

Projects supported by this DRA funding include:

  • $150,000 to the University of Holy Cross, partnering with Delgado Community College, to provide scholarships for at least 10 professionals earning an accelerated bachelor of science degree focused on culinary studies.

  • $150,000 to Nicholls State University to provide enhanced cybersecurity training and support activities to up to 147 workers and to expand training capacity.

  • $149,983 to the Research Park Corporation to develop technology apprenticeship programs to train up to 48 individuals and meet the growing demand for technology workers in Louisiana.

WASHINGTON – Today Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced the Youth Mental Health Services Act to improve mental health services for students in primary and secondary schools.

“It’s a lot harder being a kid in 2020 than when I was growing up. Young people need helping hands and listening ears as they face new social and societal pressures. Kids deserve reliable access to high-quality mental health resources, and the Youth Mental Health Service Act would make it easier for them to get that support in their communities,” said Kennedy.

The Youth Mental Health Services Act would allow school districts to use Title IV funds authorized under the Every Student Succeeds Act to put in place new mental health resources for students. The services would follow a model that gives students access to mental health resources in their communities rather than limiting access to schools, which reduces the stigma that often comes with receiving services in a school setting.

The bill also allows states to use their Title IV funds to improve existing mental health services. States would be able to use these funds to do any of the following:

  • promote best practices for mental health first aid, which helps people understand mental illness and supports intervention;
  • help improve and execute emergency planning, which schools often lack;
  • partner with local health agencies to improve the coordination of services; and
  • expand telehealth services through private providers.

The bill text is available here.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today announced $5,197,605 in grants for three health care centers in Louisiana.

“Louisiana medical workers keep slugging it out on the frontlines of this pandemic. I’m thankful—especially on this day—to see Health and Human Services support our health care heroes and the Louisianians they serve with this $5 million in grants,” said Kennedy.

The Department of Health and Human Services has awarded the following grants:

  • $1,994,884 to Southeast Community Health Systems, operating in East Baton Rouge, Livingston and Tangipahoa Parishes.
  • $1,944,826 to David Raines Community Health Center, Inc. operating in Bossier, Caddo, Claiborne and Webster Parishes.
  • $1,257,895 to Catahoula Parish Hospital District #2.

MADISONVILLE, La. –  Today Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) praised the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for issuing two final rules reducing burdensome regulations. The revisions modernize hazardous materials requirements that have negatively impacted shippers and manufacturers.

Louisiana’s shippers and manufacturers have struggled for years under regulations that are unclear and unfair. I’m glad to see DOT finalize rules that make it easier for these companies to operate efficiently, create jobs and plan for the future. Smart policies support economic growth while keeping communities safe, and that’s finally what’s going into effect here,” said Kennedy.

These final rules contribute to a safer workplace for individuals who produce or transport certain hazardous materials, and Kennedy has long advocated for these policy updates.

One of the rules finalizes specifications for rail tank cars carrying hazardous materials. It promotes enhanced safety specifications for cars carrying materials, such as chlorine, that are poisonous when inhaled.

A second rule will phase out by December 31, 2027 rail tank cars that are not properly equipped to transport such materials. This provides clarity and certainty to shipping firms planning to phase out older tank cars.

“We thank Sen. Kennedy for his commitment to safety and commend DOT for adopting standards that are supported by extensive research. With clear and uniform federal rules in place, chemical manufacturers can now have greater confidence that the tank cars they purchase or lease have a proven track record and will deliver safety benefits for many years to come,” said Chris Jahn, President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council.

Last year, Kennedy received the inaugural Rail Safety Advocate Award for his commitment to making railways safe and efficient.

“For the last two years, I have worked with SEC Chairman Jay Clayton to return these assets to victims of Allen Stanford . . . I respectfully urge you to prioritize the swift transfer of these funds from Swiss authorities so the remaining assets can be distributed back into the hands of the victims before the end of the year.”

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, today wrote to Attorney General William Barr urging the Justice Department to return $110 million to victims of Robert Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme by year’s end.

The Department of Justice is in the early stages of initiating the process for the cross border transfer of assets that belong to victims of the second-largest Ponzi scheme in American history. For the last two years, I have worked with SEC Chairman Jay Clayton to return these assets to victims of Allen Stanford (Inmate #35017-183). I respectfully urge you to prioritize the swift transfer of these funds from Swiss authorities so the remaining assets can be distributed back into the hands of the victims before the end of the year,” said Kennedy.

In June 2019, Swiss courts ordered Societe Generale (SocGen) to return $110 million in frozen assets from the Stanford Ponzi scheme. SocGen decided not to appeal the ruling. The Justice Department must now work with Swiss authorities to liquidate and return these funds to Stanford’s victims.

“The DOJ now has the responsibility to facilitate the prompt delivery of these assets to the 21,000 victims. These families have fought tooth and nail for the last decade only to recover fractions of the $8 billion stolen by Stanford. Unlike victims of the Madoff Ponzi scheme, these investors have not recovered significant portions of their money,” Kennedy explained.

Kennedy also wrote to Ralph Janvey, who was appointed as the legal receiver for Stanford victims. The receiver is tasked with helping victims recover money lost to fraud, and he may collect fees in connection with that role.

“I write today regarding the $110 million in assets that will soon be available for victims of Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme and strongly urge you to refrain from collecting any fees typically associated with your work to distribute these funds. . . . As the court-appointed Receiver charged with reuniting the Stanford victims with their stolen money, I call on you to forgo any fees in this settlement and ask to see the full amount returned to the victims,” wrote Kennedy.

More than 1,000 Louisianians from Baton Rouge, Covington and Lafayette lost significant amounts of their life savings to Stanford’s fraud.

Background:

In February, Kennedy wrote a letter to SocGen regarding its participation in the Stanford Ponzi scheme. The letter criticized SocGen’s failure to properly monitor Stanford-affiliated bank accounts, which were used to manage the personal assets of the Stanford group’s clientele.

Kennedy in August sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows urging the administration to withdraw its nomination of Michael Finkel to be a Director of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation. Finkel is Director and Senior Counsel at SocGen.

Kennedy’s letter to the attorney general is available here.

Kennedy’s letter to Janvey is available here.

“Banks have a duty to treat their clients fairly, and the OCC is right to make that clear. . . . Banks can’t simply refuse to lend to industries that have fallen out of favor with liberal elites, especially when those industries are supporting the Bill of Rights.”

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), member of the Senate Banking Committee, released the following statement supporting the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC) proposed rule to ensure fair access to credit, capital and other banking services for all customers.

“Banks have a duty to treat their clients fairly, and the OCC is right to make that clear. The most basic part of fairness means banks can’t discriminate against people or companies that are following the law. Banks can’t simply refuse to lend to industries that have fallen out of favor with liberal elites, especially when those industries are supporting the Bill of Rights,” said Kennedy.

Banks have recently been discriminating against legal businesses, particularly those selling firearms, ammunition and sporting goods. The U.S. Constitution protects those industries, and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 mandated fair access to banking services in the wake of substantial government funding that was invested into the banking system at that time.

Kennedy introduced the No Red and Blue Banks Act to prohibit the federal government from giving contracts to banks that discriminate against lawful businesses based solely on social policy considerations.

Kennedy is also an original cosponsor of the Freedom Financing Act, which would prevent banks from discriminating against industries that comply with the law and are constitutionally protected.

“Perhaps most crucially, Chairman Clayton recognizes the existential threat that Communist China’s schemes pose to U.S. markets and every person whose retirement or college savings depends on the integrity of those markets. He understands that foreign companies listing on American exchanges must be subject to credible audits and has worked toward holding companies accountable when they refuse to play by the rules.”

WASHIGNTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, released the following statement upon reports that Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton will step down at the end of the year after serving there for more than three years.

“Chairman Clayton has worked to fulfill the SEC’s duty to American investors by advocating for Main Street job-creators while strengthening the health and performance of our markets. He has reduced regulations that suffocate growth and returned millions of dollars to defrauded investors.

“Perhaps most crucially, Chairman Clayton recognizes the existential threat that Communist China’s schemes pose to U.S. markets and every person whose retirement or college savings depends on the integrity of those markets. He understands that foreign companies listing on American exchanges must be subject to credible audits and has worked toward holding companies accountable when they refuse to play by the rules. I’m grateful for Jay Clayton’s efforts on all of these fronts and for the chance to work with him over recent years,” said Kennedy.

“Veterans who sacrificed to defend our Constitution shouldn’t see their own rights rest on the judgment of unelected bureaucrats—but right now, they do. The Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act will prevent government workers from unduly stripping veterans of their right to bear arms.”

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act, which prevents veterans from losing their Second Amendment right to purchase or own firearms when they receive help managing their Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.

“Every veteran who bravely serves our country has earned VA benefits, and it’s wrong for the government to punish veterans who get a helping hand to manage those benefits. Veterans who sacrificed to defend our Constitution shouldn’t see their own rights rest on the judgment of unelected bureaucrats—but right now, they do. The Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act will prevent government workers from unduly stripping veterans of their right to bear arms,” said Kennedy.

Under current law, the VA is required to send a beneficiary’s name to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) whenever a fiduciary is appointed to help a beneficiary manage his or her VA benefits.

Ultimately, VA employees decide whether veterans receive help from a fiduciary. Hundreds of thousands of veterans have been denied their right to purchase or own firearms as a result of this unilateral process.

Kennedy’s bill would prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from transmitting a veteran’s personal information to NICS unless a relevant judicial authority rules that the beneficiary is a danger to himself or others.

The bill text is available here.