Washington has long been recognized for its creativity in labeling major legislative efforts with acronyms—coded names that use the first letter of key words in the law. Acronyms have become the way that Americans identify with their governance.
My earliest personal involvement with acronyms was with ERISA (Employee Retirement Security Act) which changed the way retirement plans operated. As a young attorney in the ‘seventies, I became knowledgeable with respect to this law in order to re-draft corporate pension and profit sharing plans to comply with the new legislation. Then, I tackled TIL (Truth In Lending) which required revisions in promissory notes and all of the related banking documents involved in fair lending practices. TIL re-defined APR and other terms to protect consumers.
Over the years, there have been many more well known acronyms that have changed the way Americans live and work. Just to identify a few:
- COBRA which, among other things, allowed for extended health care coverage when employment is disrupted;
- ADA designed to protect the interests of disabled Americans;
- FOIA which allowed citizens access to governmental information;
- EEO laws prohibiting job discrimination; and
- RESPA which changed the way real estate transactions are conducted.
A recent spate of acronyms has arisen in response to the housing/mortgage crisis that has gripped the nation. HAFA (Home Affordability Act) has spawned such labels as HAMP (Home Affordable Modifications Program), SSA (Short Sale Agreement), RASS (Request for Short Sale Approval), and more.
Somehow, acronyms seem to make new laws and regulations more palatable and understandable to the average American. If so, power to the Acronym!