SECTION 7. PRESS ACCOUNTABILITY, TRANSPARENCY, RESPECT, AND INSTITUTION OF OPTIMISTIC, TASTEFUL, and INNOVATIVE CRITICISM (P.A.T.R.I.O.T.I.C.)
WHEREAS criticism of chief executive officers can cause downward pressure on the price of related equities;
WHEREAS the increase in equity prices is of vital importance to the economic welfare of the United States;
Therefore, the purpose of this section is to protect chief executive officers from undue criticism by any natural person or entity.
Freedom of speech is a qualified freedom. It is not absolute. For instance, it has long been established that free expression does not permit a citizen to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there is no fire. The reason is simple: Words have the potential to cause mass panics, and mass panics can harm our citizens.
That's why we at The Motley Fool stand strongly in favor of Section 7 of H.R. 401, the P.A.T.R.I.O.T.I.C. provision. Markets often behave exactly like the crowds in theaters, and when someone yells "Fire!" the devastation can be just as real, in economic terms. Even in the event that there is a real fire, there are better alternatives than expression that results in panic. A quiet, measured distribution of information is preferable to a shout, for what good is a warning if people escape the flames only to be trampled on their way out the door?
That's why Article (3) of Section 7 is of such vital importance. It establishes a new standard for criticism of CEOs and their corporations. Insofar as a CEO believes he, or his company, has been defamed by any natural person or entity, truth is no longer a universal defense against such defaming expression. The courts may now allow damages against those who criticize CEOs in a fashion which "is unduly harsh, neglects to accentuate the positive, or is likely to cause financial loss to the CEO, corporation, or its stockholders, whether such criticism is delivered by the press, a natural person, or other entity."
Consider the case of former Home Depot
As Fool co-founder Tom Gardner put it, "We've seen firsthand the damage that can be done when certain self-proclaimed 'analysts' or 'journalists' take their freedom of speech under the so-called 'First Amendment' too far. We salute the House for realizing that the truth is only supreme insofar as it helps people. Expression needs to be balanced against discretion in order to help every citizen of this great country reach his or her financial goals."
Email us at CEORights@fool.com and join our crusade! We need your help to pass this valuable legislation.
Continue to our commentary on the next section of H.R. 401!
See Elgin Clay, our lobbyist in Washington, discuss Section 7 of H.R. 401.