State Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, is wrong to want state regulators to delete from a state website information about Utah investment brokers who have committed infractions or received complaints.
The public has a right to access the case files of misbehaving brokers or those who have received complaints. To scrub away the information is anti-free speech and a deliberate attempt to hinder the efforts of individuals who are trying to do adequate due diligence before hiring an investment broker to manage their money.
Fortunately, the Utah Securities Commission is not in line with Stephenson's efforts. It voted last month, unanimously, to not restrict Internet searches or any access to the state's records.
Stephenson, and some allies on the Hill, claim that many of the brokers are victims of abuse by the previous regulators, who he claims have unfairly damaged their reputations. He believes that what these brokers may have done in the past should not follow them for a long time via Google searches, etc. However, it's not the responsibility of government, or elected officials, to determine the amount of research the public should have on this issue. Stephenson is trying to limit access to information. That's simply wrong.
Utah, unfortunately, has a problem with investment fraud. Some estimates are that investment fraud totals $1 billion a year in the state. Much of this fraud is affinity-based, including religious associations. If brokers who have been tabbed via complaints and misdeeds want to have their records expunged, they can make a request to the state securities regulators, where they can get a fair hearing.
We don't need lawmakers getting involved in a blanket effort to scrub away securities information and keep it away from the public. Besides the negative free speech and transparency consequences, it provides the appearance of protecting the guilty at the expense of the innocent.