In general, reaction in the Thoroughbred industry has been positive to a Kentucky bill that is designed to protect horse buyers from being defrauded. The driving force behind the House Bill 446, filed on Jan. 24, is California vintner and Kentucky farm owner Jess Jackson, whose lawsuit against agents Emmanuel de Seroux and Brad Martin and trainer Bruce Headley alleged fraud in private and public auction purchases made on the behalf of Jackson.
Following are comments about the bill:
Robert Clay, owner of Three Chimneys Farm and a director of the Horse Owners Protective Association, which was formed by Jackson to enforce ethics rules: "I'm in support of anything that we can do to improve the public perception about the buying and selling of our horses, so I'm in support of this effort. I would think there would be widespread support for this. I would be disappointed if there wasn't much. I'm sure there may be some specifics or amendments that some people may want to object to, but in general I think it's the right thing to do. I think there's a perception problem, and I think that wherever there has been dual agency, it needs to stop. There needs to be full disclosure."
Nick Nicholson, president and chief executive officer of Keeneland: "Keeneland supports full integrity between agents and their clients. It is critical to the overall sales process. We encourage any efforts that help buyers and sellers be treated equitably."
Bayne Welker, board member of the Consignors and Commercial Breeders Association: "This bill is on the books in California. It's not unlike what goes on in real estate. If you're a real estate agent, and you're representing the buyer and seller on a piece of property, it has to be disclosed and it (the paperwork) has to be signed by the third party. Anybody who is conducting their business in a business-type of fashion has nothing to worry about here. We will certainly poll our membership, but I do not see any reason why anybody is going to be adverse to this type of legislation. It helps us all. All of us want to make sure guys like Jess Jackson and B. Wayne Hughes, and other people who have come into the business, stay in the business. Unless you're trying to wheel and deal, I don't see this as impeding private sales at all. It's just a good business practice."
David Switzer, Executive Director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders: "It's like the phoenix. You know the story of the phoenix that rose from the ashes? In 1989, there was a group of folks that got together called the Thoroughbred Agent & Consultant Association, and one of the things that they were proposing to do was full disclosure contracts – exactly what Mr. Jackson's bill is saying. At that time, there was a lot of support for it, but some opposition. Although our board has not addressed it, I would say that they would be very supportive of it. In fact, I've talked to a few of our members, not just board members, and they think it's a wonderful idea. The bill was just dropped in yesterday, and I'm sure it will get a fair hearing and hopefully it will move forward. The one thing about it, it's all encompassing of all equine (breeds), it's not just for our industry, so there will be other groups that probably want to have some input. There were words used in it that we don't have definitions in the law for, so I would say there will probably be technical amendments, but nothing substantial. I'm for it. I think it's just the proper way to do business. I never had problems doing it when I was a bloodstock agent. I did it."
Dan Metzger, president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association: "It's something that's very much in the spirit of what TOBA has advocated through the Sales Integrity Program. We haven't officially issued an endorsement on it yet, but I would expect that to be forthcoming. It's in the process of being reviewed by the TOBA executive committee, then by our full board. We applaud the efforts of Mr. Jackson and the others involved and, as I said, it's very much in the spirit of the Sales Integrity Task Force, in essence a page from it. And that's something that everybody has supported on the task force and through TOBA since day one. On the surface, it seems to cover a lot of the areas of our concern the last couple of years, but that's not to say it can't be enhanced or have modifications.
Boyd Browning, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Fasig-Tipton: "I think fraudulent activities are distasteful to all of us in the industry, and anything we can do to discourage such activities and provide buyer confidence in that arena is positive."
Headley Bell, Nicoma Bloodstock: "I'm in favor of anything that we can do to provide a stronger foundation for proper guidelines to participate in the business. It still comes down to the consumers, the individuals, to ask the right questions and for them to do their due diligence, but at least we're providing a framework for that to occur. It's a step beyond what we've done before with establishing a code of ethics. You didn't realize you'd have to go that way (though the legislature), but kudos to Mr. Jackson and his background (in law) that says you obviously have to do that. I'm sorry about the circumstances involved -- him being in the legal situation that initiated him doing this -- but it's nice for him to take it upon himself to make us a better industry."
Duncan Taylor, Taylor Made Sales Agency: "I'm not any expert on it, but I think the purpose of the bill is to clean up the industry and have something in the statutes that people can go to when they are harmed. I think that's great. I think everybody should want it. I haven't really thought everything through to know exactly how complicated it's going to make it for us to do business, but I think that's probably just something that we'll have to work out. It may not even be complicated; I'm not sure that it will be. The intent of what is being done is a good thing overall. We keep talking about having the Sales Integrity Task Force and the question always comes up, 'Well, where are the teeth in it? Everybody says it, but is there anything you can do about it?' This is not going to make it easy for a little guy that something happens to to go do something about it. But there will be some law that's on the books specifically in regards to this. So I applaud him (Jackson) for having the know how and the wherewithal to get it out and (try to) get it on the books this quick."