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It is little hardship to any particular bank that it is not allowed to lend to a stock exchange house, if it is not a member of the Federal Reserve, and as Dr. Goldenweiser said to you there is a tremendous advantage in utilizing what control over credit you can get through the degree to which the Federal Reserve System can control the credit extended by its members.
The next provision, 7 (b), provides that a broker cannot borrow from anywhere more than ten times his capital.
You have noticed no criticism of that provision even in the papers that are most tied up with the opposition to this bill. Remember we did not get through the last crash with all brokerage houses standing up. There were at least Prince & Whitely and Pynchon. When a broker extends himself too far, this very efficient stock market machinery sees to it that the lender does not lose and closes right down on the broker. The banks refuse to renew the daily loans and
the broker does not have any time to turn around. A broker always needs a certain amount of immediate resources to take care of current customers' credit balances and other demands and he always owes customers some securities. Whenever a brokerage house gets over its head on its own obligations, some customer loses.
There has been a favorable reception to this provision 7 (b). It insures two things: First, the solvency of the brokerage house--you cannot go into this business on a shoestring any more
Second, the cutting down of the total volume of borrowed money that gets into the stock market.
Notice section 7 (c). It says, if you are a broker, you have a responsibility for your customers to stay solvent and you cannot play in the market with the capital that theoretically you have invested in the brokerage business, because then your own operations get mixed up with your customers' operations. You are pledging the same securities for their and your own operations, and, if your own operations are unsuccessful then your customers may lose with you. That is, you keep this cushion of capital for the protection of your customers if anywhere in a diversification of loans to customers which are always safer than a position of your own in the market.
Mr. KENNEY. Mr. Chairman. The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Kenney. Mr. KENNEY. You urged a little while ago that there was a reason why it was not possible for legislation to be passed which would permit customers to limit their liability by confining their responsibility to the funds placed with the broker for purposes of a transaction.
Mr. CORCORAN. That is, suppose I buy certain shares of stock at market price, which aggregates $1,000. Under the present rules, if I am a little fellow, the margin would be different from what it would be for the big fellow. But suppose I am a big borrower I might put up $350, you say now, why should it not be possible for my entire liability in that transaction to be that $350.
The answer is that no broker will take that contract, because--a broker cannot be sure in a market that is falling fast, that with all of the diligence in the world he can get the securities sold out of an account in time to protect himself. If you did have such a contract, supposing the broker would play ball on such a basis, you would have a much more vicious market. If I were a broker, and I knew that if the collateral went lower than the margin, I would lose the difference and
I would sell when it came within 15 points of margin and take no chances.
Mr. KENNEY. Would not such legislation require the broker to exact a higher margin from his customers, and tend to keep the little fellows out of the market?
Mr. CORCORAN. Well, that is true.
Mr. KENNEY. Suppose that I had $350 on margin for $1,000 worth of stock, and I put in an order to sell. What guarantee have I that the specialist will sell my stock in the regular order?
Mr. CORCORAN. Well, on the good exchanges you have some guarantee now.
Mr. KENNEY. It might be that I could get out of the market without any liability, but on the other hand I could lose very much more than I had up with the broker even though my order to sell, if executed, would have saved all loss. Is that not so?
Mr. CORCORAN. Of course, that would depend entirely on the efficiency of the house.
Mr. KENNEY. Should there not be a protection for the customer?
Mr. CORCORAN. Yes; but, of course, you must remember, in talking about all these things, that we are not dealing just with the big board. There are three stock exchanges in New York alone, three organizations dealing in securities.
Mr. KENNEY. As I understand your argument, we should tell the little fellow to keep out of the market.
Mr. CORCORAN. Right.
Mr. KENNEY. Now, I would like to ask if you believe we should find something else less harmful than the stock market for the little fellow?
Mr. CORCORAN. You are talking about this legislation?
2.Ir. KENNEY. We are dealing with this legislation, and in that connection I would refer you to the Roper report. You have read the Roper report?
Mr. CORCORAN. Yes.
Mr. KENNEY. The Roper report suggested that it might be well if something new or less harmful could be found to take care of the speculative activities of the great masses of the people. Are you familiar with that?
Mr. CORCORAN. Yes.
Mr. KENNEY. Do you agree with that observation, to the effect that there ought to be something else less harmful than the stock exchanges to give a legal outlet for the speculative desire of the little fellow?
Mr. CORCORAN. I do not know. I do not know much about that.
Mr. CORCORAN. Yes, I know what the Roper report said something about the desirability of some innocent gambling amusement into which we could divert the gambling instinct without raising difficulties for industry.
Mr. KENNEY. Did you read the reference in the magazine, "Time" to that part of the Roper committee report, under date of February 51
Mr. CORCORAN. Which referred to what, sir?
Mr. KENNEDY. Which referred to that part of the Roper report.
Mr. CORCORAN. Well, sir; that is just a philosophical observation that it would be a nice thing if we could have some kind of gambling game that did not interfere with the industrial situation.
Mr. KENNEY. Do you agree with that?
Mr. CORCORAN. I think that it would be a lot better if we did not have any gambling at all.
Mr. KENNEDY. Yes; but you realize that we do have gambling do
Mr. CORCORAN. I am afraid we do.
Mr. KENNEDY. And you know that we are not going to stop it by this bill?
Mr. CORCORAN. You can never stop gambling in some other way, by this bill.
Mr. KENNEDY. There will always be gambling, and if the masses are not permitted to gamble on the stock market, they will gamble in some other way; is that not right?
Mr. CORCORAN. I think that is right.
Mr. KENNEY. Now, if we had a less harmful way for the ordinary man to take a chance to better his condition, you do not think that would be much more preferable?
Mr. CORCORAN. Yes; if we had something that was less harmful.
Mr. KENNEDY. Have you ever considered or studied the advisability of a national lottery to be conducted by the Government of the United States?
Mr. CORCORAN. I understand that
Mr. CORCORAN. I understand this, that the French are able to raise money right now, only through the use of a national lottery.
Mr. KENNEY. You say that is the only way France can sell her bonds, and you realize, I suppose, that other countries are raising money in the same way.
Mr. CORCORAN. If you want to introduce a lottery bill, Mr. Kenney, I will help you draw it.
Mr. KENNEY. I have already drafted one, Mr. Corcoran, and have introduced it in the House of Representatives. I am looking forward to the early passage of my bill. I believe it is salutary and much needed for the protection of the masses, and is, besides, a source of large, painless revenue to meet the demands of the Budget. I would like to have your support on it.
Mr. CORCORAN. I will come down here and appear for you on it. Mr. KENNEY. Thank you.
Mr. CORCORAN. Now, you want to remember when we are dealing with this stock-exchange problem, we have more than the New York Stock Exchange to consider. We have the curb exchange, the produce exchange in New York, the Chicago Stock Exchange, the Chicago Curb, the Chicago Board of Trade. We have exchanges in Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, New Orleans, San Francisco-Í do not know how many there are of them. You want to remember that when you are dealing with the practices on the Big Board, as a general rule, with the exception of say 4 or 5 other exchanges, they are much ahead of the practice in the rests of the country. For that reason, there has been incorporated in the bill a provision for the same requirement which the stock exchanges in New York, and the law of the State of New York require, as to raising of money by brokers, by hypothecating their customers' securities. That is what (d) and (e) refer to on page 14. (f) on the same page, 14, touches another practice, Mr. Lea, which you were talking about the other day, in connection with short selling.
In connection with short selling a broker has to find somewhere securities to deliver against short sales. In normal times there is a regular practice of brokers lending securities of customers to cover the short sales.
You think, for instance, that the stock of X Co. is going to drop. It is now at 100. You contract to sell that stock at 100.
You hope that when it goes down to 80, as you are betting it will, you can buy in the stock that you sold for 100, at 80, and thereby make 20 points. But you have to deliver stock tomorrow against the sale you made today at 100, under the ruling of the stock exchange, which now requires—it used to be 1 day-now 2-day delivery. From somewhere you have to borrow stock to delivery to your buyer. Your broker possibly borrows it from some other broker. There is a regular business of lending stock to cover short sales.
7 (f) chops into that custom a little by requiring a broker, if he uses stocks belonging to a customer, to cover a short sale of another customer, or lends such stock to another broker to let him cover short sales for his customer, to credit interest paid for the lending to the customer's account.
Heretofore it has often been pocketed by the broker. When you open an account with a broker you do not sign a note. open an open account. You sign a card, which gives the broker the right to hypothecate you securities for his own loans, secure borrowings for money he has lent others, as well as that which he lends you.
Mr. LEA. Do not customers ordinarily know about that?
Mr. CORCORAN. Well, the customer does not, sir, because most men dealing with the market do not know quite what they are doing anyway:
Mr. KENNEY. That gives the broker permission to use the stock?
Mr. CORCORAN. Well, sir, you see the broker has to carry the load and borrow the money which pays for that part of the purchase price of the security you do not put up. Now, no broker has enough capital to carry all his customers.
Suppose you put up a margin. The broker has to find the rest of the purchase price, because he has to pay somebody in full for the stock he buys for you. Now, if there were only you to deal with, the broker's capital might be enough to make up the difference; but there are lots of “you”. “You” are multiplied thousands of times over, so the broker simply has to go out and borrow, and to borrow he has to have some security, so he takes your security and my security, and his own security, and he pledges them in the aggregate for one big loan at the bank.
The CHAIRMAN. We will resume Tuesday morning at 10 o'clock.
(Thereupon, at 11:47 a.m., the committee adjourned to meet Tuesday, Feb. 20, 1934, at 10 a.m.)
You just NATIONAL SECURITIES EXCHANGES-H.R. 7852.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 1934
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The committee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10 a.m., in the committee room, New House Office Building, Hon. Sam Rayburn (chairman) presiding. The CHAIRMAN. The committee will come to order. You may proceed, Mr. Corcoran.
STATEMENT OF MR. THOMAS GARDINER CORCORAN, COUNSEL
WITH THE RECONSTRUCTION FINANCE CORPORATION, WASHINGTON, D.C.-Resumed
Mr. CORCORAN. You will remember that at the last session we began to talk about provisions in this bill for the control of the amount of credit that gets into the market and we discussed those provisions of section 7 of the bill which limit the amount of money a broker can borrow. You will remember that the bill limits the amount that brokers can borrow from Federal Reserve banks, limits them to borrowing from any source more than ten times their capital. I understand from some members of the Fletcher Committee, that at times brokers, members of the New York Stock Exchange, have borrowed as high as 52 times their capital.
Furthermore, there are provisions cutting down the right of brokers to use their customers' securities as collateral for the brokers' borrowings, which accord with the rules of the New York Stock Exchange at the present time, and the requirements of the law of the State of New York. There are also some limitations on the degree to which a broker can borrow stock from one another to cover short sales, and there are provisions preventing a broker from speculating for his own account with that portion of his capital which theoretically is reserved as a cushion for the protection of his customers.
The second part of the control of credit as it gets into the stock market relates, of course, to the credit that can be extended to purchasers of stocks. That brings us to a discussion of margins.
The margins provisions of this bill are all included in section 6. Let me outline the structure of that section before I answer questions on margins. In substance, subsection (b) of section 6 provides that any member of an exchange or any of the outside brokers of whom I told you the other day who carry on a regular business in securities through members of the exchange acting as brokers can lend only on listed securities and lend only either 40 percent of the current value or 80 percent of the lowest value to which a security which has had a