Her Majesty’s “Unexplained Wealth Orders” go too far

I’ve got a piece in Thursday’s Washington Examiner on a remarkable new law enforcement tool in Britain:

It’s like, “Your papers, please,” but for things you own.

Authorities in Britain have begun trying out a new police power called unexplained wealth orders under a law that took effect last year. The police go to a court and say you’re living way above any known legitimate income. The judge then signs an order compelling you to show that your possessions (whether a house, fancy car, or jewelry) have been obtained honestly and not with dirty money. In the meantime, the boat or artwork or other assets get frozen, and you can’t sell them until you’ve shown you obtained them innocently.

The kicker: The burden of proof falls on you, not the government. If you don’t prove the funds were clean, Her Majesty may be presumed entitled to keep the goodies….

Related to the flipping of the burden of proof, the law says information dug up via one of the orders can’t then be used in criminal charges against the target.

…advocates want this to be the start of hundreds of seizure actions against other rich foreigners in the British capital.

Some are already calling for bringing a law like this to the United States, and maybe we’re halfway there already. Asset forfeiture laws, blessed by the Supreme Court, already let police seize your property on suspicion of involvement in a crime and make you go to court to get it back. We’ve been chipping away at financial privacy in this country for decades, through Know Your Customer, suspicious-activity reports, and FATCA (expatriate tax) rules.

Ironically — though recent enactments by Parliament may be changing this, too — Britain’s own peripheral territories and dependencies, including the Channel Islands, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, etc. have long made a good business out of furnishing the rest of the world with the means of financial privacy.

The reversal of the presumption of innocence troubles many Britons, too. For the moment, use of the orders is limited to a few elite law enforcement agencies. One of those agencies, however, is Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs — the tax collectors. It’s not wrong to worry about where this idea is headed.

Whole thing here. (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty).

Banking and finance roundup

  • Advice to Mark Calabria, newly installed as head of the Federal Housing Finance Administration, or FHFA [Arnold Kling; more on what to do with Fannie and Freddie]
  • Bad blood between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren on consumer bankruptcy issue goes back decades [Matthew Yglesias, Vox]
  • “Financial planning websites consistently emphasize paying off revolving high-interest debt before saving for retirement (unless a company offers a match rate).” But state-mandated auto-IRAs nudge workers the other way [Aaron Yelowitz, Cato, earlier]
  • Competition for incorporation: “Nevada adopts fee-shifting: Should Delaware worry?” [Stephen Bainbridge]
  • “The True Winners and Losers of Financial Regulation” [Diego Zuluaga] Fed vs. narrow banks [John Cochrane, more]
  • FATCA was the bad fairy’s curse at the royal baby shower: “Welcome to Tax Hell, Little Earl of Sussex” [Suzanne Lucas, earlier]

Feds charge doc, medical consultant in mesh litigation scheme

“Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have charged a physician and the owner of a medical consulting firm over a scheme to persuade women to have their pelvic mesh implants surgically removed to bolster the value of lawsuits against the devices’ manufacturers.” The prosecutors charge that the two lied to women about the health risks of mesh and of its surgical removal, and participated in a system of improper bribes and kickbacks. “The procedures were paid with money from high-interest cash advances arranged by a group of so-called litigation finance firms.” [Matthew Goldstein, New York Times, earlier on pelvic mesh here, here, here, etc. ]

June 12 roundup

  • Moving against emerging litigation analytics and prediction sector, France bans publication of statistical information about individual judges’ decisions on criminal penalty [Artificial Lawyer, ABA Journal, David Post]
  • Eugene Volokh analyzes Washington high court’s unanimous ruling against Arlene’s Flowers and Barronelle Stutzman in same-sex marriage refusal case [Volokh Conspiracy, earlier on case here and here]
  • “Small claims court for copyright” idea would likely worsen the problem of copyright trolling [Mike Masnick, Techdirt]
  • Activists push laws and pledges intended to push charitable foundation giving (yet) further to left [James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley, Washington Examiner]
  • Review of new book by libertarian economist David D. Friedman, “Legal Systems Very Different from Ours”: pirates, prisoners, gypsies, Amish, imperial Chinese, Jewish, Islamic, saga-period Icelandic, Somali, early Irish, Plains Indians, 18th century English, and ancient Athenian [Michael Huemer, Reason]
  • If the Supreme Court is going to let police stop your car on a pretext, they should at least insist that there *be* a pretext [Jonathan Blanks on Sievers v. Nebraska Cato cert petition]

Gorsuch: “almost anyone can be arrested for something”

Dissenting in the recent case of Nieves v. Bartlett, on the First Amendment handling of arrests motivated in part by retaliation for protected speech, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that criminal law in U.S. has expanded to a point where “almost anyone can be arrested for something.” And the implications? [Ilya Somin] Earlier on Nieves and the retaliatory-arrest case that preceded it last year, Lozman v. Riviera Beach, and more on the Nieves outcome from Tim Cushing at TechDirt.

Police roundup

  • Review of 70 studies shows police body cameras to be popular with both officers and public, though tangible benefits fall short of what some proponents had hoped [Ronald Bailey, Reason]
  • If law enforcement is allowed to use facial recognition technologies at all, here are some important safeguards for its use [Matthew Feeney, Cato]
  • Do you think of intensive police stops of minority teens on the street as a way to reduce crime rates? Think again [Jonathan Blanks, Cato]
  • When political influentials are in the vehicle, police collision reports can be works of art [Eric Turkewitz]
  • Why juries acquit cops charged with brutality [Phil Fairbanks, Buffalo News]
  • Investigation finds police officers found to have committed serious misconduct not only remain active as police, usually at different departments, but in 32 instances have become police chiefs or sheriffs [James Pilcher, Aaron Hegarty, Eric Litke and Mark Nichols, USA Today]

How Illinois is that?

A very Illinois situation: “An Illinois union lobbyist can keep the public pension windfall he qualified for by spending one day as a substitute teaching, the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled.” [Ray Long, Chicago Tribune via its Twitter]

More on Illinois public employee pensions: “More than 19,000 Illinois Government Retirees Receive Pensions Over $100K” [Janelle Cammenga, Illinois Policy] “Mapping the $100,000+ Illinois Teacher Pensions Costing Taxpayers Nearly $1.0 Billion” [Adam Andrzejewski, Forbes 2016] “Top 200 Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund Pensions as of 2017” [Taxpayers United (park district employees score highly in $150K+ annual pension listings)] (via @TwoBoysCapital on Twitter)

Meanwhile, so delightfully Chicago: “JUST IN: Lawyer for ex-Ald. Willie Cochran ask for six months home confinement, saying ‘”since sending previous aldermen to jail has not done anything to curb Chicago’s tidal wave of aldermanic corruption cases, there is no reason to think that sending Mr. Cochran to jail will.'” [Chicago Tribune reporter Jason Meisner on Twitter]