Land ad hits Peters for accepting Wall Street cash

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Truth Squad assigns five ratings to the political statements we review, in descending levels of accuracy:

No factual inaccuracies in the statement and no important information is missing
Mostly accurate
While the statement is largely accurate, it omits or exaggerates facts, or needs some clarification
Half accurate
Truths are interspersed with mistruths, or the speaker left out significant facts that render his/her remarks misleading in important respects
Mostly inaccurate
The major point or points made are untrue or misleading, even while some aspects of the claim may be accurate
The statement is false, or based on false underlying facts

Who:Terri Lynn Land for Senate
What:Web ad, “Cheap Talk”
The call:No foul

Huge banks and insurance firms that trade on the New York stock exchange were at the center of the Great Recession that the nation is still smarting from, making “Wall Street Insider” a term that can still grab the attention of voters. The “Cheap Talk” ad from Republican Terri Lynn Land, who is running against Democrat U.S. Rep. Gary Peters for U.S. Senate, paints Peters as a “Wall Street insider” who benefitted from bankers and financiers even as he vowed to get tough on Wall Street abuses. We examine the evidence.

Relevant text

“Gary Peters spent twenty years as a Wall Street insider himself.”

Peters worked for 22 years as an investment advisor including serving as an assistant vice-president with Merrill Lynch from 1980-89 when he took a job as vice president at UBS PaineWebber.

“Gary Peters has said many times and trumpets on his own websites that he was a manager for ‘major wall street firms’ for more than 20 years,” said Heather Swift, spokeswoman for Land campaign.

While the ad notes repeatedly the abuses by Wall Street banks, it fails to note that the offices Peters ran traded in equity options, not the credit-default swaps which were blamed for much of the credit crisis that triggered the Great Recession.

Equity options allow customers to set a price to buy or sell stock.

In a story about the anti-Peters Wall Street attacks, Nejat Seyhun, a professor of finance at the University of Michigan, told Gongwer News Service last month that equity options had nothing to do with the 2008 credit crisis.

The Merrill Lynch and Paine Webber offices that Peters ran were located in Rochester Hills, Michigan, not on New York’s Wall Street, as the Peters campaign notes. Even so, Wall Street is widely known to refer both to the U.S. financial center in lower Manhattan, and the larger U.S. financial and investment community. The other part of the term, “insider,” is in one sense defensibly vague, as it could refer to any person with deep experience in a given industry. Of course, it can also less charitably be interpreted as suggesting shady investment practices without Land’s campaign having to substantiate such a claim.

“And Peters took more than two million from Wall Street bankers and the financial industry, the industry Peters’ congressional committee is supposed to monitor.”

The Land camp points out that Peters received $2,055,839 in contributions from financial, insurance and real estate firms over the course of his political career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ website.

As of last week, that number was higher, reported as $2,061,229.

The call:No Foul

Peters has served as a member of the Financial Services Committee and was one of 10 House Democrats selected to serve on the Wall Street Reform Conference Committee that helped craft financial reform legislation after the credit crisis. The jury is still out on whether some insurance firms or banks are still “too big to fail,” a term that was used to justify using public funds to bail out huge firms during the financial crisis.

The ad seeks to tie Peters to the abuses of Wall Street banks, and its claim that Peters was a “Wall Street insider” stretches that definition. The ad accurately points out, however, that Peters has taken contributions from Wall Street interests while pledging to fight Wall Street abuses.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Thu, 08/14/2014 - 5:54pm
Equity options are, however, a kind of structured asset-backed security and were touted as loudly as the CDOs and CLOs by politicians like Barney Frank, financiers and economists as "managing risk." The stocks, around which these options gyrate didn't completely fall apart, and most options themselves are rather short lived so that the sellers and buyers usually could walk away in 2007-9 only slightly bruised. Nevertheless stock options and other financial derivatives were swept up fervidly as in a kind of zero sum game for gamblers, praised by the geniuses (nobel laureates) who brought us Long Term Capital in the late 1990s and who were crushed when one segment collapsed. That it is was Debt obligations was only capricious; on any one day, equities could have taken a fast dump just as easily.