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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) filed legislation today to improve retirement savings plan options for millions of American small businesses and their employees.  This legislation makes it easier and less expensive for small businesses to offer retirement plans, like 401(k)s, by encouraging small businesses to band together through organized business associations, like chambers of commerce, that can sponsor affordable retirement plans for all of the associations’ members.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about one-third of private sector employees did not have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans in 2016.  Only 47% of employees of small businesses with fewer than 50 employees have access to defined retirement contribution plans, such as 401(k)-style plans.

“Millions of Americans work for small businesses that don’t have the resources to offer their employees retirement plans, which can make saving for retirement challenging and complicated,” said Sen. Kennedy. “This bill will make retirement plans more simple and available to people who own or work for small businesses. Americans know the value of hard work, and we work like dogs hoping that one day we’ll be able to kick back and retire.  This legislation will help make those retirement dreams more accessible to many hardworking Americans.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced today that Louisiana flood victims will get relief from the duplication of benefits’ issue that has been a roadblock to recovery.  Official guidance was published today that will allow the state to release disaster aid to those previously turned away because they applied for Small Business Administration loans.

The duplication of benefits’ issue has caused a financial hardship for many families struggling to recover from the 2016 floods.  After delays in implementing a solution, Sen. Kennedy privately met with President Trump in April to discuss the issue.

“This would not have happened without President Trump’s intervention, and that’s a fact. He promised me that he would take care of Louisiana, and he did.  President Trump, Secretary Carson and Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought are men of their word,” said Sen. Kennedy. “The duplication of benefits’ problem was an unfair hurdle for many families.  Louisianans deserve the disaster relief they were promised.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), are demanding that Toronto-Dominion Bank provide a plan within 21 days for paying restitution to the thousands of people – including many Louisianans – who lost their life savings in the Stanford Ponzi scheme.

The demand letter to Toronto-Dominion Bank is part of a multi-layered strategy by Sens. Kennedy and Cassidy to recover money for victims defrauded by Stanford International Bank and Allen Stanford.  Stanford victims lost more than $5 billion.  They’ve recovered just a few cents for every dollar they lost.

Toronto-Dominion Bank provided banking services to Stanford without questioning suspicious activity, including unreasonably high investment returns, large round sums leaving Stanford’s accounts and wire transfers that should have set off warning bells.

In February, Sens. Kennedy and Cassidy asked Stanford’s Swiss bank, Societe Generale, to release $210 million in assets.  Sen. Cassidy later sat down with Societe Generale’s lawyers to discuss the issue.

“We’re going to chase Stanford’s assets like hounds from hell until we recover what was stolen from hard-working people.  The investors defrauded by Stanford weren’t wealthy.  Most of them were just average Louisianans who lost their life savings,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Toronto-Dominion Bank turned a blind eye to obviously fraudulent activity by Stanford.  Ten years later, it’s past time to answer to the people who were hurt.”

“The Stanford Ponzi Scheme stole billions from hardworking teachers, nurses, firefighters and middle-class folks in Louisiana, and we will not stop until these families' life savings are returned,” said Dr. Cassidy.  “TD Bank's handling of the Stanford case is unacceptable and they must take action to mend their failure."

 

June 14, 2019

 

Mr. Gregory B. Braca

President and Chief Executive Officer

Toronto-Dominion Bank

Toronto-Dominion Centre

Toronto, Ontario M5K 1A2

Canada

 

Dear Mr. Braca,

It has been nearly 10 years since the collapse of Stanford International Bank (SIB) and Allen Stanford’s arrest for running the second largest Ponzi scheme in United States history.  Nearly a decade later, more than 21,000 of Stanford's victims have yet to be repaid in any meaningful way, and TD Bank has yet to be called to account for the years of knowing assistance it provided to Stanford and his Ponzi scheme, due in large part to the procedural and litigation roadblocks that TD Bank has thrown in the path of those seeking to obtain restitution for Stanford’s victims.

In the interim, we understand that TD Bank has not only continued to operate throughout the United States, but expanded its American operations.  We demand that TD Bank stop its obstructionist conduct, engage in a meaningful effort to put an end to this decade-long debacle, and provide restitution to the Stanford victims without further delay.  Regulatory intervention should not be necessary for Stanford's victims to receive the justice they deserve.

As you are undoubtedly aware, the evidence indicates that TD Bank aided and abetted Stanford’s banking outside the United States.  By providing banking services to Allen Stanford without so much as questioning a single transaction in the face of Stanford’s suspicious activity, TD Bank helped Stanford defraud thousands of unsuspecting victims.

TD Bank ignored numerous inescapable signs of fraudulent activity:  large round sums leaving Stanford’s TD Bank accounts; actual investment returns that could not support the unreasonably high CD returns SIB was offering; consistent wire transfers to accounts maintained by entities other than SIB; SIB’s limited number of Canadian customers; SIB’s correspondent banking services with another North American banking institution; SIB’s location in Antigua, one of the highest risk jurisdictions in the world known for money laundering; and Stanford’s declared bankruptcy and designation as a Politically Exposed Person.  In its pursuit of the fees it could earn by aiding the Stanford empire, TD Bank also ignored warnings from many others – including the SEC, Pershing, L.L.C., Chase Manhattan Bank, and Bank of America – about doing business with Stanford and SIB.  We will not permit TD Bank to hide any longer from the fact that it was an integral cog in the wheel of the Stanford Ponzi scheme.

TD Bank’s involvement with Stanford is part and parcel of a disturbing pattern of TD Bank’s turning a blind eye at its customers’ fraudulent activities:  a banking executive of TD Bank was convicted of assisting efforts to induce investors to fund the Scott Rothstein Ponzi scheme, and TD Bank, through its New York Branch, also acted as a correspondent bank to American International Bank (Antigua) (AIB), another entity in receivership that engaged in financial fraud and money laundering despite not having conducted “any due diligence” on AIB as noted in a 2001 Congressional report.

We will not tolerate this conduct and the abandonment of investors that have been harmed by TD Bank and other financial institutions involved with Stanford.

Accordingly, please begin the process of providing restitution to the Stanford victims immediately.  Within 21 days, please present to us your plan to put an end to the ongoing litigation with the Stanford receiver and other plaintiffs, and provide restitution to our constituents and the other victims of Allen Stanford’s fraud.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

___________________________                              ___________________________

John Kennedy                                                             Bill Cassidy, M.D.

US Senator                                                                  US Senator

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) filed amendments to the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) aimed at improving on-base housing for military families and increasing military bases’ financial stake in saving taxpayer money.   The amendments would address lead contamination concerns at Fort Polk.

One amendment will require testing of on-base housing for lead poisoning.  A report will then be made to Congress on how to improve living facilities in contaminated base housing.  Lead contamination is a concern in base housing across the country, including Fort Polk near Alexandria.

Another amendment will allow military bases to keep up to 25% of the savings they generate for partnering with local governments for services such as grounds maintenance, custodial services and solid waste management.  Fort Polk saves the federal government $2 million a year by sharing waste management services with the Vernon Parish Police Jury.

“Our military bases are an important part of our local communities.  The men and women of the military sacrifice their lives to ensure our continued freedom.  They expect to encounter danger on the battlefield, not at home on a military base.  Lead contamination has been found at military bases across this country, including Fort Polk.  This is a serious problem that must be addressed,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “At the same time, bases like Fort Polk are saving taxpayers money by partnering with local governments on necessary services.  They should be able to keep a portion of those savings.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued the following statement today after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released guidance for implementing a solution to the duplications of benefits’ issue facing many Louisiana flood victims.  Links to HUD’s guidance are below.

Sen. Kennedy has been working to help flood victims who were denied recovery assistance if they applied for Small Business Administration loans.  In April, Sen. Kennedy met privately with President Donald Trump to discuss a solution to the duplication of benefits’ issue that is affecting thousands of Louisiana families following the 2016 floods.

“President Trump told me two months ago that he wanted to help Louisiana.  I am hopeful that this guidance delivers the solution that Louisiana flood victims need,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “I’ll be reviewing it carefully to make sure it complies with Congress’ legislative intent.  The people of Louisiana deserve the disaster relief they were promised.  They shouldn’t be penalized for unprecedented flooding.”

HUD’s guidance:

Part 1 

Part 2 

 

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer urging him to include conditions from their legislation, the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, during discussion of a trade deal with China.

The bill introduced would require foreign companies to comply with U.S. auditing standards by requiring them to meet the Public Accounting Oversight Board standards (PCAOB). The PCAOB is a nonprofit corporation established by Congress in 2002 that administers performance audits of public companies in order to protect investors.  The PCAOB has entered into cooperative agreements with foreign regulators around the world but has not been able to reach an agreement with China. 

“The current failure of China to comply with our laws and play by the same rules as everyone else puts American investors and the credibility of our markets at risk…” the senators write. “The fact that China stands alone in its noncompliance with PCAOB standards is yet another example of how it fails to play by the same rules as other countries. China’s failure to comply with our disclosure laws has already impacted investor confidence and the integrity of our financial markets.”

 

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

As you continue your work on a fair trade deal with the Chinese government, we urge you to include conditions in the deal that would require Chinese companies listed in the United States to comply with U.S. auditing and reporting requirements. The current failure of China to comply with our laws and play by the same rules as everyone else puts American investors and the credibility of our markets at risk.  Because of this negligence, we introduced the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, which we believe should be a guidepost for your negotiations with the Chinese government on this issue.

In 2005, the Public Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), began inspecting foreign auditors “in order to assess those firms’ compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the rules of the Board, the rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and professional standards in connection with their performance of audits, issuance of audit reports, and related matters involving U.S. public companies, other issuers, brokers and dealers.” The PCAOB is able to inspect these firms because it entered into cooperative agreements with foreign regulators around the world.

Achieving these agreements, has not been easy, but our regulators have been able to come to an agreement with virtually every other country except for China. To put this into perspective, in 2013, the PCAOB was unable to conduct inspections of foreign auditors in 15 countries. In just six years, they have been able to come to an agreement with every country except for China and Belgium, and it is our understanding that Belgium has made meaningful progress with the PCAOB.

The fact that China stands alone in its non-compliance with PCAOB standards is yet another example of how it fails to play by the same rules as other countries. This point was underscored in December when the Chairmen of the PCAOB and the SEC said in a joint statement that “for certain China-based companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges, the SEC and PCAOB have not had access to the books and records and audit work papers to an extent consistent with other jurisdictions both in scope and timing.”

China’s failure to comply with our disclosure laws has already impacted investor confidence and the integrity of our financial markets. As you may be aware, in 2009, the U.S. markets saw a boom of Chinese companies registering on the U.S. exchanges. By circumventing our laws, many of these fraudulent companies merged with American shell companies and got access to U.S. investors without an initial inspection by the SEC. Because of this, many of these Chinese-based companies crashed in 2011.  This crash, commonly referred to as the “reverse merger fraud crisis,” led to the loss of billions of dollars in market capitalization.  According to a 2013 McKinsey and Company report, the losses were over $40 billion in market value.

The SEC, PCAOB, and the U.S. exchanges responded to the reverse merger crisis in a number of ways. For example, the SEC filed numerous enforcement cases against Chinese companies and their attorneys, auditors, and “gatekeepers.” Additionally, the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ delisted over 50 Chinese companies between 2011 and 2012.

Despite these actions, we still do not have complete information regarding Chinese companies listed in the U.S. In order to remedy the fact that China will not comply with our regulators, we introduced the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act. Our bill would amend Sarbanes-Oxley to impose stronger requirements on SEC registered companies based in foreign countries. The bill expressly requires foreign companies that are registered with the SEC to allow the PCAOB to review their books.  While the bill does not specifically name any country, it would solve this ongoing issue the PCAOB and the SEC have with China.

We ask that you include the substance of this bill in your trade negotiations with the Chinese government, in order to protect the everyday American investor. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

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By U.S. Sen. John Kennedy

Just a few years ago, a study found that 36 million Americans failed to refill their prescriptions because the cost was too much.  That means a population the size of Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas combined is skipping medicine that controls diabetes, lowers cholesterol and battles depression.

Across America, the contents of our medicine cabinets now rival expensive jewelry in price.  The cost of insulin doubled in the U.S. between 2012 and 2016.  Nexium, which treats acid reflux, will set you back more than $7 per pill. 

What’s really frustrating is that the spiraling cost of prescription drugs is limited to the U.S.  That exact same Nexium pill only costs three bucks in Canada.

Somehow, we’ve turned medication that is as necessary as air and water into a luxury item in America.  Drugs that prolong the lives of everyone from infants to senior citizens are increasingly becoming unaffordable.  People are shaking their heads at the pharmacy counter and walking away without their prescriptions.

Simply living in the U.S. means you pay more for pharmaceutical drugs.  Move to Switzerland, Japan, Germany, Canada, Ireland, Belgium or any other similarly blessed country in this world, and you’ll pay less at the pharmacy.  Consider this:  In America, per capita spending on pharmaceutical drugs is $1,162; in Denmark, it’s $282.

There are many reasons why Americans pay more for prescription drugs than residents of other countries.  Through legislation, I’m tackling two of those reasons: the middleman and the abuse of our patent system.

To help senior citizens, I’ve filed the Phair Pricing Act of 2019 to reduce patients’ costs at the point of sale.  Here’s how it will work.

Negotiations with drug manufacturers on prices that health plans pay are conducted by what are known as pharmacy benefit managers.  It used to be that these companies just processed claims.  Now they’re deciding which drugs your health plan will cover and the price you and your health plan will pay.

On the surface, it sounds like a great idea to have someone haggling with drug companies on costs.  But pharmacy benefit managers have consolidated over the years, making them an elite club that operates in shadows. 

What we suspect is that pharmacy benefit managers are making out like bandits through dubious business practices.  For example, pharmacy benefits managers negotiate discounts with drug manufacturers and then some pocket the money.  The result is higher costs at the pharmacy counter for patients while the pharmacy benefit manager makes a hefty profit.

The Phair Pricing Act of 2019 makes it clear that savings achieved through price negotiations must benefit the patient – not the middleman.

I am also cosponsoring the Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act.  This legislation will eliminate the games the pharmaceutical drug industry plays with the patent system to block competitors.  Competition lowers prices.

Some companies blanket their products with multiple patents to discourage cheaper alternatives from developing.  Most often, this happens with especially expensive drugs.  It’s one thing to protect a newly developed drug.  It’s another thing to game the system and gouge patients by repeatedly reissuing patents on an old drug.

For example, if a patent is expiring, a drug company might slightly change the dosage instructions in order to qualify for another patent.  This creates a loophole in the patent expiration system.

The Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act puts patients first by limiting unfair tactics like this.

Prescription drugs help us live longer.  They improve our quality of life.  I’m not anti-drug companies; I congratulate them on their success and thank them for their products. But their products only help us if we can afford them.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today pointed to the Louisiana Medicaid program’s $400 million in savings from income eligibility checks as further evidence that more widespread checks are needed of taxpayer-funded programs.

Both Sen. Kennedy and Congressman Ralph Abraham, M.D. (R-La.), have introduced legislation to reduce fraud in taxpayer-funded government assistance programs – including Medicaid, food stamps and welfare - by requiring states to use federal tax information to verify income eligibility.  Louisiana purged thousands of people from its Medicaid rolls after income verifications showed they earned too much money to qualify for the program.

Sen. Kennedy also called on the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) to look into whether some Medicaid recipients purposely lied to the state about their income.  News reports indicate that more than 1,600 Medicaid recipients brought in minimum earnings of $100,000 in 2017.

“Government assistance programs like Medicaid are funded through the hard work and generosity of American taxpayers.  These programs should only benefit those who truly are in need.  People with six figure salaries shouldn’t be on Medicaid,” said Sen. Kennedy. “Simple income checks unfortunately revealed waste within Louisiana’s program.  Even worse, some of the waste may have been because of deliberate fraud.  The state should legally pursue anyone who lied about their income.  The legislation that Rep. Abraham and I filed will eliminate similar waste across the country.  We need to make sure that not a single penny of taxpayer money is wasted.”

“The Medicaid savings show what can happen when the government simply checks whether someone should be on Medicaid in the first place,” said Rep. Abraham.  “There’s absolutely no reason that your tax dollars should be wasted on people who don’t really need the help.  Sen. Kennedy and I have been saying this for months: Checking eligibility before doling out benefits is basic common sense, and that’s why we’ve been working to pass legislation to make it an across-the-board practice.”

 

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 WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) introduced the Improving Mental Health Access for Students Act today to improve college students’ access to available mental health resources.  The legislation requires higher education institutions to print the contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Crisis Text Line and an on-campus mental health program on the back of student identification cards.

In 2017, suicide took the lives of over 47,000 people making it the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States.  Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, and 39% of college students report experiencing a significant mental health issue.

“It can be really hard to be a kid in the world today. These mental health resources can be lifesaving, and college students deserve to know what help is available to them when they need it most,” said Sen. Kennedy. “I hope that this legislation will shed light on the many resources that students can access whenever they need an attentive ear or proper medical attention.”

“Over the past ten years, we’ve seen an alarming trend of rising suicide rates among young people,” said Sen. Jones. “Students should know that there are resources to help them deal with the pressures of being a college student and take care of their mental health. This bill helps remove the stigma associated with mental health issues and helps spread awareness about the resources that are available to students.”

Reps. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Lou Correa (D-Calif.) introduced an equivalent version of the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives today.

“My legislation is straightforward—too many of our young people are taking their own lives, and we must act,” said Rep. Correa. “By adding crucial suicide prevention information to Student I.D.s and college websites, we can ensure at-risk students have options.”

“A loss of life at any age is tragic, but it is especially heartbreaking losing students at such an exciting and pivotal time in their lives. This bill will make existing critical resources more visible for those in crisis and improve mental health across college campuses,” said Rep. Chris Stewart.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced $9 million in grants from the Department of Transportation for Lafayette Regional Airport and Alexandria International Airport.

A $2.6 million grant for Alexandria International Airport will be used to improve runways and surrounding areas to make them safer. A $6.4 million grant for Lafayette Regional Airport will fund the reconstruction of the airport apron, a place for aircraft to be loaded, unloaded, fueled and parked.

“Our airports are a gateway for thousands of people traveling to and from Louisiana every year,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “These grants will ensure the safety of passengers and crews as they come and go through Lafayette and Alexandria.”

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