"A holding company is a thing where you hand an accomplice the goods while the policeman searches you” was written by humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935) in a newspaper column on March 14, 1935. Rogers was responding to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s remarks about holding companies and the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 (PUHCA). In the early 1930s, the largest few utility holding companies had controlled almost 3/4ths of the electric industry.
Wikipedia: Will Rogers
William Penn Adair “Will” Rogers (November 4, 1879 – August 15, 1935) was an American cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, social commentator and motion picture actor. He was one of the world’s best-known celebrities in the 1920s and 1930s.
Wikipedia: Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935
The Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 (PUHCA), also known as the Wheeler-Rayburn Act, was a law that was passed by the United States Congress to facilitate regulation of electric utilities, by either limiting their operations to a single state, and thus subjecting them to effective state regulation, or forcing divestitures so that each became a single integrated system serving a limited geographic area. Another purpose of PUHCA was to keep utility holding companies engaged in regulated businesses from engaging in unregulated businesses.
PUHCA was one of a number of trust-busting and securities regulation initiatives that were enacted in response to the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and ensuing Great Depression, including the collapse of Samuel Insull’s public utility holding companies. By 1932, the eight largest utility holding companies controlled 73 percent of the investor-owned electric industry. Their complex, highly leveraged, corporate structures were very difficult for individual states to regulate.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
holding company n. a trading company which possesses the whole of, or a controlling interest in, the share capital of one or more other companies.
1906 Daily Colonist (Victoria, Brit. Columbia) 18 Jan. 1/5 A bill to prohibit ‘holding companies’ such as have lately effected the merger of various corporations..was introduced in the legislature today.
1912 Q. Rev. Jan. 195 The Federal Steel Company, which is technically, like the Steel Corporation of to-day, a holding company.
Google News Archive
14 March 1935, Tuscaloosa (AL) News, “Will Rogers Says,” pg. 1, col. 4:
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.—Say, did you read about what Mr. Roosevelt said about those “holding companies?” I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to call me names like that. Now Huey Long. Father Coughlan and Gen. Hugh Johnson can call each other names, but theirs is all in good clean fun. They don’t really mean it, any of ‘em. But Mr. Roosevelt ain’t kidding. And what makes it worse is that it’s true. A holding company is a thing where you hand an accomplice the goods while the policeman searches you.
The Age of Roosevelt:
The Politics of Upheaval
By Arthur Meier Schlesinger
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin
“Say, did you read about what Mr. Roosevelt said about those ‘holding companies?” wrote Will Rogers. “A Holding Company is a thing where you hand an accomplice the goods while the policeman searches you.” But pressures against the bill mounted even faster. Rogers soon was forced into defiant explanations of his careless wisecrack.
The 2,548 Best Things Anybody Ever Said
Edited by Robert Byrne
New York, NY: Fireside
A holding company is a thing where you hand an accomplice the goods while the policeman searches you.
—Will Rogers (1879–1935)
State of Emergency:
FDR, The Depression, and the Plots to Create an American Dictatorship
By Nate Braden
Such tales of financial skullduggery were cropping up with depressing frequency in the 1930s, prompting Will Rogers to comment: “A holding company is a thing where you hand an accomplice the goods while the policeman searches you.”
New York City • Banking/Finance/Insurance • Sunday, August 11, 2013 • Permalink