Nary a week goes by without some article in one of New York's daily papers chronicling the sad tales of citizens getting fleeced in one of several oft-warned-against scams.
One of my favorites is the foreign national who claims to have a winning lottery ticket but because of their status, can't cash it. So in good faith he or she asks some dupe to put up several thousand of his or her own money as collateral until the winning ticket can be redeemed.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people continue to be sucked in by this scheme, even after all the warnings and special reports. It may sound like a cold-hearted rationalization, but I'm of the opinion that victims of this scenario are too stupid to have money anyway.
I was never one to argue P.T. Barnum's theory on the alarming birth rate of suckers.
And, as someone who works in New York City, I always enjoy the slick-handed Three-Card Monte dealer who inexplicably goes on a losing streak until some yokel plunks down his or her money for a crack at the title.
By the time these Lil Abners realize that the previous "winner" was probably the dealer's relative, their losses are comfortably into three figures.
But I digress.
Lately about 30 of your elected senators, and more than 300 members of Congress, have been hypnotized as convincingly as those black-socks-and-Bermuda-shorts-clad tourists before a savvy sidewalk pitchman.
However, their shell game is in the form of the Stock Option Reform Act, an option-expensing alternative as watered down as Tampa, Fla., after the recent visit from Hurricane Frances.
Incredibly, the bill, sponsored by Rep. Richard Baker, R-La. -- which requires only the expensing of options only given to the five top executives -- incredibly, sailed through the House by an overwhelming 312-111 vote in July.
Not surprisingly, the bill enjoyed wide support from representatives of the options-heavy technology arena and will soon be placed before the Senate for debate.
Thankfully, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission has lent an air of sanity to the issue by urging Senate members to remain out of the options debate and basically allow the Financial Accounting Standards Board to, well, do its job.
And what FASB does is set accounting standards, just in case there was some confusion.
In a recent missive fired off to Senate majority leader Bill Frist, R.-Tenn., SEC Chair William Donaldson said that the Baker bill would undermine FASB and "disrupt the independent, private sector accounting standard-setting process."
Last month, a quartet of senators led by Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., introduced a resolution and urged their colleagues to refrain from interfering with FASB's options proposal measure.
The politicos who have attached themselves to the Baker bill like stubborn remoras have either been shamefully swayed by their contribution-friendly constituency, or they actually believe that lawmakers can set accounting standards on a par with FASB.
Either way, it doesn't bode well for the investing public.
On the other hand it presents a whole new demographic for an ambitious Three-Card Monte dealer.
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