How Corporations Got a License to Lie

If you're wondering how corporate America was able to bamboozle so many people into throwing their life savings away on worthless investments, part of the answer lies in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA), which was lobbied into law by the National Investor Relations Institute. The PSLRA created a legal "safe harbor" for companies that issue "forward-looking statements" about predicted future earnings, protecting them from litigation even if they made fundamentally unrealistic earnings predictions. Opponents of the legislation called it "a license to lie." Corporations also pulled out the stops to defeat California's Proposition 211, which would have made it easier to sue corporations that issue misleading financial statements. Tina Harris, whose PR firm is appropriately named "Gold Rush Communications," boasts that she "generated hundreds of newspaper articles and radio and television interviews" to defeat Prop 211 on behalf of a now-defunct industry front group called Taxpayers Against Frivolous Lawsuits. Attorney William Lerach, who specializes in suing corporations on behalf of investors, has written a couple of essays explaining how Wall Street, the big accounting firms, and corporate America lobbied Congress to undermine the quality of financial reporting.