Search Results for ‘"martin act"’

Jim Copland: Congress should override NY’s Martin Act

Especially given the role of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, federalism provides no good reason why successive holders of the office of New York attorney general, through the state’s ultra-broad Martin Act, should regulate national business practices in ways at odds with federal regulation and the wishes of the other 49 states:

national financial markets have been overseen since the Depression by the SEC under federal law. In 1996 Congress enacted the National Securities Improvement Act to exempt nationally traded securities from state registration and review requirements. Congress should go further and pre-empt state securities laws that seek to require disclosures exceeding federal standards or that have looser proof requirements on questions like intent.

[Jim Copland, WSJ ($) via Manhattan Institute; earlier on Martin Act]

“Devil’s Bargain: Wall Street and the Martin Act”

My new op-ed at the New York Post looks at the history of Spitzer-to-Cuomo-to-Eric Schneiderman prosecutorial overreach and asks: how exactly did the New York Attorney General come to have so much power with so little constraint? (& welcome Instapundit, Real Clear Markets, Timothy Carney/Examiner, CEI readers)

More: I and others have written about the act here and at Point of Law.

New York’s Martin Act: Spitzer’s blank check

Why is New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer so feared by the state’s financial community? A major reason is a little-known piece of 1921 New York legislation called the Martin Act, aimed at financial fraud. “It empowers him to subpoena any document he wants from anyone doing business in the state; to keep an investigation totally secret or to make it totally public; and to choose between filing civil or criminal charges whenever he wants. People called in for questioning during Martin Act investigations do not have a right to counsel or a right against self-incrimination. Combined, the act’s powers exceed those given any regulator in any other state.

“Now for the scary part: To win a case, the AG doesn’t have to prove that the defendant intended to defraud anyone, that a transaction took place, or that anyone actually was defrauded. Plus, when the prosecution is over, trial lawyers can gain access to the hoards of documents that the act has churned up and use them as the basis for civil suits.” Important reading (Nicholas Thompson, “The sword of Spitzer”, Legal Affairs, May-June). Radley Balko comments (May 12), and see our Jan. 17 item. More on Spitzer’s financial enforcement: Dec. 17, 2003; Jun. 17-18 and Oct. 30-31, 2002; Mar. 31-Apr. 2, 2000.

Climate change roundup

  • I was part of an informative panel discussion of “Climate Change Litigation and Public Nuisance Lawsuits” organized by the Rule of Law Defense Fund [watch here] Podcast and transcript of an October update on state and municipal climate litigation with Boyden Gray [Federalist Society] And because it’s still relevant, my 2007 WSJ piece (paywalled) on how contingency fees for representing public-sector plaintiffs are an ethical travesty;
  • New York securities case against ExxonMobil goes to trial [Daniel Fisher, Legal Newsline; earlier] At last minute, NY Attorney General Letitia James, successor to Eric Schneiderman, drops the two counts requiring proof of intent, which the state had earlier deployed to accuse Exxon of deliberate misrepresentation. Still in play is the state’s unique Martin Act, which allows finding fraud without proof of intent [Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News]
  • Ninth Circuit panel hears “children’s” climate case, Juliana v. U.S. [Federalist Society podcast with James May, Damien Schiff, and Jonathan Adler; related commentary, James Coleman]
  • Bernie Sanders doesn’t really need legal arguments for retroactive criminal prosecutions if he’s got Jacobin on his side, right?
  • “Lawyers are unleashing a flurry of lawsuits to step up the fight against climate change” [Darlene Ricker, ABA Journal]
  • Who’s backing Extinction Rebellion, the lawbreaking group that blocked intersections in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere this fall? “The answer, in part, is the scions of some of America’s most famous families, including the Kennedys and the Gettys.” [John Schwartz, New York Times]

Banking and finance roundup

  • Gov. Jerry Brown signs into law California bill imposing minimum quota for women on corporate boards: “it’s very hard to see how this law could be upheld” [Emily Gold Waldman, PrawfsBlawg, earlier, more: Alison Somin, Federalist Society] “The passage of this law resulted in a significant decline in shareholder value for firms headquartered in California.” [Hwang et al. via Bainbridge]
  • Martin Act, part umpteen: “New York Attorney General Overreaches in Climate-Change Complaint Against Exxon” [Merritt B. Fox, Columbia Blue Sky Blog]
  • “Now he tells us! You’d think that maybe Bharara would have publicly acknowledged this ambiguity and haziness [in insider trading law] before bringing a series of cases that destroyed careers and imposed huge costs on the individuals who were accused.” [Ira Stoll]
  • “Because [Florida agriculture commissioner-elect Nikki Fried] took donations from the medical marijuana industry, Wells Fargo and BB&T banks closed her campaign accounts briefly, citing policies against serving businesses related to marijuana, which is still prohibited under federal law.” [Lori Rozsa, Washington Post, Erin Dunne, Washington Examiner (“fix the marijuana banking mess”)]
  • Survey: “Average cost of a settled merger-objection claim has increased 63% to $4.5 million over four years, with little benefit to shareholders” [Chubb] “Time for Another Round of Securities Class Action Litigation Reform?” [Kevin LaCroix, D&O Diary on U.S. Chamber paper, and more on trends in Australia]
  • “Congress Can’t Create an Independent and Unaccountable New Branch of Government” [Ilya Shapiro on Cato cert amicus in State National Bank of Big Spring v. Mnuchin, on constitutionality of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)]

Banking and finance roundup

When prosecutors team up, and when they don’t

I’m in today’s New York Post. Excerpt:

“Mueller teams up with New York attorney general in Manafort probe,” Politico reported Wednesday. Commentators went wild.

What could be more exciting than for the special counsel investigating the Russian matter to team up with noted Trump foe Eric Schneiderman? Neither the president nor Congress can lay a glove on him; some of the legal weapons he wields go beyond what Mueller has at his disposal; and if Schneiderman obtains convictions in state court, Trump will have no pardon power. It’s like two superheroes with coordinating capes and powers!

Around liberal Twitter, it was a total game changer. “THIS IS BIG!!!!!!” typed Amy Siskind of New Agenda, hailing the sort of news for which four or five exclamation points won’t do. “What’s Russian for ‘Trump’s goose is cooked?’” crowed Harvard’s Laurence Tribe.

In the opposite camp, the Trumpian claque at Breitbart argued that with the combative New York AG on board — Schneiderman has long feuded with Trump, and is widely disliked by Republicans — the whole Russian probe can be dismissed as tainted. The connection “undermin[es] the integrity and impartiality of Mueller’s inquiry,” wrote Joel Pollak. “There could not be a more inappropriate person to be seen working with Mueller.”

Both sides should calm down….Federal and state prosecutors are supposed to cooperate when investigations overlap. That’s what they do.

I go on to discuss sharing of grand jury information, the ripples of dismay sent by Trump’s Joe Arpaio pardon (on which more from Josh Blackman here, see also and earlier), and New York’s Martin Act. Whole thing here.

Are the climate-speech subpoenas constitutional?

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pursuing an investigation of the Exxon Corporation in part for making donations to think tanks and associations like the American Enterprise Institute and American Legislative Exchange Council, which mostly work on issues unrelated to the environment but have also published some views flayed by opponents as “climate change denial.” Assuming the First Amendment protects a right to engage in scholarship, advocacy, and other forms of supposed denial, it is by no means clear that information about such donations would yield a viable prosecution. Which means, notes Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, that the New York probe raises an issue of constitutional dimensions not just at some point down the road, but right now:

A prolonged investigation in response to someone’s speech can violate the First Amendment even when it never leads to a fine. For example, a federal appeals court ruled in White v. Lee, 227 F.3d 1214 (9th Cir. 2000) that lengthy, speech-chilling civil rights investigations by government officials can violate the First Amendment even when they are eventually dropped without imposing any fine or disciplinary action. It found this principle was so plain and obvious that it denied individual civil rights officials qualified immunity for investigating citizens for speaking out against a housing project for people protected by the Fair Housing Act.

In another case, in which a company had been sued seeking damages over its participation in trade-association-related speech, a federal appeals court found that the pendency of the lawsuit all by itself caused enough of a burden on the firm’s speech rights that the court used its mandamus power to order the trial judge to dismiss the claims, a remarkable step.

Moreover, Bader writes, a string of federal precedents indicate that the constitutional rights Schneiderman is trampling here are not just Exxon’s but those of the organizations it gave to, which have a right to challenge his action whether or not the oil company chooses to do so:

These groups themselves can sue Schneiderman under the First Amendment, if Schneiderman’s pressure causes them to lose donations they would otherwise receive. Government officials cannot pressure a private party to take adverse action against a speaker.

Meanwhile, writing at Liberty and Law, Prof. Philip Hamburger of Columbia Law School takes a different tack: the subpoenas imperil due process and separation of powers because they issue at the whim of Schneiderman’s office. Earlier ideas of constitutional government “traditionally left government no power to demand testimony, papers, or other information, except under the authority of a judge or a legislative committee.” In more recent years executive subpoena power has proliferated; so has the parallel power of lawyers in private litigation to demand discovery, but the latter at least in theory goes on under judicial supervision that can check some of its abuse and invasiveness. Extrajudicial subpoenas by AG offices are particularly dangerous, Hamburger argues, because of their crossover civil/criminal potential: the targets do not enjoy a high level of procedural protection when “attorneys general claim to be acting merely in a civil rather than a criminal capacity,” yet the same offices can and do threaten criminal charges. Especially dangerous is New York’s Martin Act, a charter for general invasion of the private papers of anyone and anything with a connection to New York financial transactions.

An attorney general’s concern about fraud or the “public interest” is no justification for allowing him to rifle through private papers. When he thereby extracts the basis for a criminal prosecution, he evades the grand jury process. When he thereby lays the groundwork for a civil enforcement proceeding, he evades the due process of law, for there ordinarily is no discovery for a plaintiff until he commences a civil action. Even worse, when a prosecutor uses a subpoena to get a remunerative settlement, it is akin to extortion — this being the most complete end run around the courts.

Previously on the probe here and here (and earlier here and here), and on the New York attorney general’s office here and here.

[cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]