Power and Money

Capitol Hill: Creating More Waste With Private Equity Probes?

CNBC.com photo composite

No one likes government waste, right? It's taxpayer dollars going down the toilet. And yet, today on Capitol Hill, there may be a lot of waste generated by not one, not two, but THREE Congressional hearings on hedge funds and private equity.

Wait, you say! I will probably get a load of emails (and please send them, I do read them) calling me unpatriotic or a mouthpiece for the wealthy world of hedge funds and private equity. No, I am not a friend of Blackstone's CEO Steve Schwarzman (although, I'd take an invitation to dine on stone crab with Steve any day). But let's break down what's really on going on, on the Hill:

10 a.m. Senate Finance Committee meets on changing the tax treatment of carried interest, effectively raising the income tax on partners in private equity, real estate and oil & gas ventures.

More than a dozen lawmakers back the measure. Today's witness list: tax experts, academics and one venture capitalist. But why not invite one of the members of the coalition formed by Rep. Eric Cantor Republican of Virginia (see video clip below), which is working against the bill. Let's hear from the other partnerships that would also feel the impact of this bill. If there is no acknowledgement that other folks might be impacted, then it seems this bill's sole intent is to raise taxes on rich private equity guys. (Now, that can't possibly be, can it?)

10 a.m. House Financial Services Committee meets with members of the President's Working Group to discuss systemic risk.

First, this report has been out for several months. Second, the members of the working group are testifying, but will not likely say much that deviates from the report. A really interesting hearing would be to turn the tables and ask lawmakers: why--if the Federal Reserve, Commodities Futures Trading Commission, Treasury all say existing regulations are sufficient-- are you holding these hearings and would you enact regulation that would defy the PWG's findings?

1 p.m. House Committee on Oversight hearing on small investors and hedge fund risks.

Small? Hold your horses. Investors have to have $1.5m in net worth, aside from the value of their primary residences. So are these investors small? Or, if the intent is to see what impact hedge funds have on small investors, then do not pass Go, and head straight to the hearing at 10 a.m. in the House on the systemic risk to the system of hedge funds.

I understand Congress has a duty to look at all these issues. But let's call a spade a spade.

Video Update:

Hedge Fund Hearing Update

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