- 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]
- Supreme Court poised to strike down structure of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as unconstitutional [Ilya Shapiro, National Review]
- No love lost between Elizabeth Warren’s, Barack Obama’s teams when consumer finance regulation was on the table [Alex Thompson, Politico]
- Cato Daily Podcasts on two topics with Diego Zuluaga and Caleb Brown: Congress is considering a ban on cashless stores, and Bernie Sanders wants to create a public credit scoring system;
- And speaking of the Vermont senator: “The Economic Consequences of Sen. Sanders’ Stock Confiscation Plan” [Ryan Bourne, Cato]
- State Street hearing before Boston federal judge lays bare politics and accounting issues of one large securities class action settlement [Daniel Fisher/Legal Newsline and more, Law360 also via Fisher]
- SEC rules on “accredited investors” are an attempt “to protect us from ourselves. Yet there are no such rules for betting in Las Vegas.” [David Henderson]
- Democratic contenders’ platforms on employment issues: Sanders still gets out furthest to left but Warren, Buttigieg, and O’Rourke giving him some serious competition [Alexia Fernández Campbell, Vox]
- Occupational licensure: more states embrace reform [Eric Boehm] Bright spots include Colorado (Gov. Jared Polis vetoes expansion) and Pennsylvania (recognition of out-of-state licenses) [Alex Muresianu and more] Connecticut catching up on nail salons, in a bad way [Scott Shackford]
- “Trump’s Labor Board Is Undoing Everything Obama’s Did” [Robert VerBruggen, NRO] A theme: to protect employee freedom of choice [Glenn Taubman and Raymond J. LaJeunesse, Federalist Society]
- Mistaken classification of a worker as an independent contractor, whatever its other unpleasant legal implications for an employer, is not an NLRA violation when not intended to interfere with rights under the Act [Todd Lebowitz; Washington Legal Foundation; In re Velox Express]
- Modern employers need to watch out for their HR departments, says Jordan Peterson [interviewed by Tyler Cowen, via David Henderson]
- Despite effects of federal pre-emption, state constitutions afford a possible source of rights claims for workers [Aubrey Sparks (Alaska, Florida constitutions) and Jonathan Harkavy (North Carolina), On Labor last year]
Not scary or intrusive at all: presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has called for enacting a “national wealth registry,” the better to enforce future schemes of taxation, confiscation, and restraints on expatriation [Brittany De Lea, Fox Business; related, Chris Edwards, Cato; Emily Ekins on opinion poll] And the steep “exit tax” that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sanders propose to slap on wealthy individuals who depart the U.S., of up to 40 and 60 percent respectively, did not sound better in the original German [Ira Stoll; earlier]
P.S.: On the constitutionality angle, note that the Competitive Enterprise Institute has just filed a lawsuit on behalf of a couple challenging the constitutionality of a provision of the 2017 tax reform law known as the Mandatory Repatriation Tax. Counsel Andrew Grossman, quoted in the CEI press release, stated:
The Mandatory Repatriation Tax is unconstitutional for the same reason that a wealth tax would be. The Constitution does not permit Congress to simply declare money that it wants to tax to be income and then demand its cut. And the courts have never permitted retroactive taxation reaching back anywhere near the 30 years, as the Mandatory Repatriation Tax does. The details of the tax may be complicated, but the constitutional violations are clear.
- 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]
Fossil fuel executives should be criminally prosecuted for the destruction they have knowingly caused. #GreenNewDeal
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 22, 2019
Vermont senator and presidential Bernie Sanders cites no criminal law that the executives violated, but he wouldn’t be the first champion of collectivism for whom the conviction was settled on first and the law found afterward. More: William Allison, Energy in Depth (in which I take issue with retroactive application of criminal law, and notions of “conspiracy” that do not make clear which underlying laws were involved).
Complying with wage and hour law these days is no easy matter, whether you’re Sen. Bernie Sanders or running a California offshore oil platform. I explain why in my new Cato post on Parker Drilling v. Newton, decided by the Supreme Court last month. More on Sen. Sanders’s travails here and here, from my Cato colleague Ryan Bourne.
Two politicians with whom I regularly disagree have proposed a national cap on credit card interest of 15% a year. Because they are well known figures, the proposal is likely to get some attention.
Per one reporter, the current median card interest rate of 21.36% breaks down to 17.73% for high credit scores and 24.99% for people with low credit scores. Who do you think will be denied credit altogether under a 15% cap? Are they better off with an option of 24.99% credit, or with no option of credit at all?
Since the idea of interest caps is anything but new, economists have had a long time to study this issue, as I noted in this earlier post. One recent study looked at Arkansas, a state with a throwback constitutional provision capping allowable interest rates at 17 percent. The effect is to keep some otherwise common financial products from being offered in the state, as a result of which many Arkansans “drive to neighboring states to take out small-dollar installment loans.”
Why think that the government can set price ceilings well below market clearing levels without causing shortages of the affected good or service? More fundamentally, why should the government stand between two parties in a willing transaction? More: Steve Horwitz.
P.S. Did someone bring up postal banking?
From my new Cato post:
“Read this section carefully. It requires you to waive your right to a jury trial and arbitrate certain disputes and claims and prohibits class and representative actions or arbitrations.” — from the “Bernie App.” (illustration via @NC_CyberLaw on Twitter).
That’s right. The campaign-ready “Bernie app” released this week requires its users to agree to submit to arbitration in case of dispute, in place of lawsuits and especially class actions. As Ted Frank observes, “Even Bernie Sanders recognizes the importance and value of arbitration in navigating a legal system designed to benefit lawyers over the interests of consumers and businesses.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if the Vermont senator preached what he practiced? Later I bring the discussion around to the Supreme Court’s ruling last week (Lamps Plus v. Varela, earlier here and here) that courts should not read class arbitration mechanisms into arbitration agreements that are silent or ambiguous on the subject. Whole thing here.
They knew, because their own allies had told them: “As you know, deception/disinformation isn’t itself a basis for criminal prosecution under RICO.” — an official of the Union of Concerned Scientists, writing to the organizers of a campaign to enlist scientists behind a call for a RICO investigation of the fossil fuel industry for its statements about climate change. The letter added, explaining UCS’s unwillingness to back the letter, “We don’t think that Sen. [Sheldon] Whitehouse’s call gives enough of a basis for scientists to sign on to this as a solid approach at this point.” [Reason]
Despite cautions like these, calls for a RICO investigation soon caught on among the political class and an investigation launched by Democratic state attorneys general has now aimed dragnet climate subpoenas at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and, thus far less directly, at nearly 100 advocacy, free-market, and university-based groups. “These include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the George Mason University Law and Economics Center, the American Enterprise Institute, the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, the Cato Institute [which publishes Overlawyered], the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, the Heritage Foundation, and on and on,” writes Ronald Bailey. CEI responded to the subpoena here (in a brief written by Andrew Grossman) and here, and on May 13 Cohen Milstein, the private contingency-fee law firm representing the attorney general of the Virgin Islands, responded, reserving the right to compel compliance with the subpoena, which demands the production of ten years’ worth of documents.
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are among public figures who have backed calls for a racketeering investigation of fossil fuel companies’ participation in climate debates. I have found no evidence that either has expressed concern about the direction in which such investigations are headed.