Posts Tagged ‘banks’

An emergency bonfire of the regulations

So as to deploy medical services more effectively during the COVID-19 emergency, the Department of Health and Human Services has announced that it will forgo enforcement of rules restricting telemedicine, both by waiving HIPAA prohibitions on the use of everyday communications technologies like Skype and FaceTime, and by removing a requirement that reimburseable services be provided by the holder of an in-state license. At the same time, as I noted last week, many states have been relaxing rules prohibiting practice by out-of-state medical professionals (partial list here).

That’s part of a pattern in which governments are slashing many old regulations that they realize get in the way of crisis response and complicate the lives of ordinary citizens trying to work and shop under difficult conditions. My Cato colleague Chris Edwards links some of them in this post, including compilations by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Americans for Tax Reform. (More: R Street Institute; Katherine Timpf, National Review. Hospitals and medical professionals aside, suspended rules include hours of service rules for truckers driving emergency medical supplies, requirements that Florida insurance agents keep public offices, rules forbidding the combined transport of food and liquor in Texas trucks, and federal standards restricting universities’ use of online classes. How many of these rules were unnecessary or unwise in the first place?

While movement of persons between communities may pose a danger during epidemics, movement of goods remains vital to prosperity and mutual exchange. Simon Lester points out in a Cato podcast that easing trade restrictions is a direct way to address difficult bottlenecks in emergency medical supplies. Relatedly, recent tariffs on medical supplies haven’t been helpful, encouraging large factories overseas to prioritize customers outside the U.S. (earlier).

In a reaction to the financial strains caused by the outbreak, the feds have been flooding the banking system with liquidity, both by relaxing regulations and through central bank operations. Cato’s Diego Zuluaga in a podcast distinguishes between liquidity objectives and (what is rightly more controversial) bailout objectives.

Banking and finance roundup

  • Senator Elizabeth Warren and her Accountable Capitalism Act represent an attempt to revive a theory of the corporation that fell out of favor long ago, that corporate status is a grant of favor in exchange for which the state may demand services or cooperation [Abdurrahman Kayiklik, Columbia Law School Blue Sky Blog; earlier with links to Warren on corporate governance and other topics]
  • Bill in Congress would enlist banks in watching gun sales [Robert VerBruggen/NRO; Noah Shepardson, Reason] NRA, in litigation, contends it has evidence New York state officials negotiated with U.K.’s Lloyds to curtail insurance availability in a way specifically targeted at the association [Stephen Gutowski thread]
  • “The Misguided Quest to Limit Choice in Consumer Credit” [Diego Zuluaga]
  • “The CFPB and Payday Lending Regulations” [Peter Van Doren last February; earlier on payday lending; Federalist Society Regulatory Transparency Project video on regulation-through-investigation of payday lenders with Jamie Fulmer, Chris Peterson, and Brian Knight]
  • Federalist Society podcast on Community Reinvestment Act with Aaron Klein and Diego Zuluaga;
  • Learned a new word, lutulent, which means “muddy, turbid, thick” and is more or less the opposite of luculent (“lucid, clear, transparent”) [Keith Paul Bishop on unclarities in new California law requiring gender quotas on boards (“a lutulent mess”); earlier here, etc.]

Banking and finance roundup

  • Neat trick: banks can get Community Reinvestment Act credit for lending in “low-income census tracts” even when that means extending $800K mortgages to gentrifiers [Diego Zuluaga, Politico, related policy analysis and Cato podcast]
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren has a plan to regulate private equity. It’s not good [Steven Bainbridge] When you’ve lost veteran liberal columnist Steven Pearlstein… [Washington Post]
  • Speaking of terms with ugly histories, maybe it’s time for Sens. Warren and Sanders to retire the metaphor of the financial sector as vampires or “vultures” engaged in “sucking” or “bleeding” [Ira Stoll, related]
  • Volume of securities litigation is on sharp upswing, policy remedies needed [Kevin LaCroix/D&O Diary and more, Chubb “Rising Tide” report] Rising in Australia too [Nicola Middlemiss, Insurance Business Australia]
  • Unconstitutionality of CFPB structure hasn’t gone away and neither has the need for the Supreme Court to tackle the issue [Ilya Shapiro on Cato certiorari amicus brief in Seila Law LLC v. CFPB] Appointment process for Puerto Rico financial oversight board under PROMESA law is of doubtful constitutionality [Shapiro on Cato amicus brief in Financial Oversight & Management Board for Puerto Rico v. Aurelius Investment, LLC]
  • In an age of professional consultants, why does the law continue to require corporate governance to be delivered by way of individual board members? Firms specializing in board services could offer attractive alternative [Todd Henderson, Charles Elson, Stephen Bainbridge, Federalist Society Forum]

Now, a push for more disclosure of who owns businesses

Cato event featuring David R. Burton, Richard Hay, Karen Kerrigan, & Diego Zuluaga:

Policymakers on both sides of the aisle have proposed new regimes for small-business beneficial ownership reporting. The aim of such legislation is to eliminate opportunities for money laundering and financial crime. However, the proposals before Congress would place heavy new compliance costs on millions of America’s small businesses while continuing to provide opportunities for bad actors to engage in illicit financial activities. Beneficial ownership reporting would add to an already onerous anti-money-laundering/know-your-customer (AML/ KYC) regulatory burden, cited by community banks as the single most costly financial regulation. Furthermore, international experience with beneficial ownership reporting requirements suggests that it will be difficult to make such requirements work in the United States.

Earlier on money laundering and know your customer (KYC) regulations.

Finally, reform of structuring-law seizures

For years this website has covered the injustices of structuring law, under which persons who deposit or withdraw sums deemed too close to the $10,000 reporting threshold, even if for reasons that prove innocuous, can face seizure of their accounts. Now, under a tax-bill provision unanimously adopted by Congress and signed by President Trump, “the IRS can now only seize property for structuring if it’s ‘derived from an illegal source’ or if the money were structured to conceal criminal activity.” [Nick Sibilla, Forbes; Jacob Sullum, Reason; earlier]

“Congress Passes Bill To Protect Small-Business Owners from IRS Seizures”

On June 13 “the U.S. Senate unanimously approved legislation that stops the Internal Revenue Service from raiding the bank accounts of small-business owners. The Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers RESPECT Act, passed as part of the Taxpayer First Act (H.R. 3151), is named after Institute for Justice clients Jeff Hirsch and Randy Sowers, two victims of the IRS’s aggressive seizures for so-called ‘structuring.’ Through structuring laws, the IRS has routinely confiscated cash from ordinary Americans simply because they frequently deposited or withdrew cash in amounts under $10,000. And by using civil forfeiture, the IRS can keep that money without ever filing criminal charges.” [Nick Sibilla, Institute for Justice] We’ve covered the problems with structuring law, as well as asset forfeiture, for many years.

The folly of interest rate caps, cont’d

“A new proposal would likely sharply curtail the issuance of credit cards and the extension of unsubsidized credit to lower-income people.” Diego Zuluaga comments for the Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown.

More: David Henderson, Peter Suderman, Todd Zywicki and Federalist Society podcast with Zywicki and Wayne Abernathy, and Alex Tabarrok and Tyler Cowen with pointers to papers. As we noted in February, a recent study of Arkansas’s constitutional 17% cap found it hurt borrowers of modest means, who now drive to other states to take out small loans.

A second podcast with Cato’s Todd Zywicki, this one noting that earlier rounds of regulation precipitated the withdrawal of banking services from many less well-off communities to which postal banking is now being touted as a solution:

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).