Go ahead, Mr. Former Governor. Sound like Ayn Rand. We won’t mind. I explain at Cato at Liberty.
A victory worth cheering for due process and property rights: the U.S. House has unanimously approved a bill that would curb IRS seizure of bank accounts premised on the owners’ having engaged in a pattern of deposits or withdrawals below the $10,000 reporting threshold (“structuring forfeiture”). The measure would 1) codify a recent IRS practice of not keeping money if no underlying illegality were found such as tax evasion or income from unlawful sources; 2) assure account holders a quick hearing after a seizure, a process that can now drag out for long periods. [Institute for Justice press release; Michael Cohn, Accounting Today] The Treasury inspector general found that “in a whopping 91 percent of sampled cases, the laws were being used to forfeit assets from individuals and businesses found to have obtained their income legally.” [Michael Haugen, The Hill, April]
I’ve been writing on this issue for years. The bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Joseph Crowley (D-NY), is called the Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers RESPECT Act; I’ve written about the structuring case of Maryland farmer Randy Sowers here and here.
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.
- Med mal something of a regional problem: nearly half of payouts are in Northeast, with New York alone paying out more than the entire Midwest [New Jersey Civil Justice Institute on Diederich Healthcare analysis] “Neurosurgeons were 50% more likely to practice defensive medicine in high-risk states compared with low-risk states” [Smith et al., Neurosurgery via NJCJI]
- New Paul Nolette book on state attorneys general Federalism On Trial includes history of suits led by New York’s Eliot Spitzer to redefine as “fraud” widely known drug-pricing practices that Congress had declined to ban or otherwise address. The resulting lucrative settlements also earmarked money to fund private critics of the pharmaceutical industry;
- City of Chicago signs on to one of the trial bar’s big current recruitment campaigns, suits seeking recoupment of costs of dealing with prescription opioid abuse [Drug & Device Law; earlier here, here, here]
- We here in Washington, D.C. take very seriously any violations of HIPAA, the health privacy law. Just kidding! If a union supporter pulls information from an employee medical database to help in an organizing drive, that might be overlooked [Jon Hyman on National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge decision in Rocky Mountain Eye Center]
- “Preferred Care defendants respond to New Mexico Attorney General’s lawsuit, argue it was filed at urging of Cohen Milstein law firm” [Legal NewsLine]
- Philadelphia police run warrant checks of hospital visitor lists, and as a result many persons with outstanding warrants avoid going to hospitals. So asserts sociologist Alice Goffman in her book On the Run, but the evidence is disputed [Sara Mayeux last August, Steven Lubet in review challenging the book more broadly on ethical and factual grounds, Goffman’s response]
- Making contraceptive pill available over the counter without prescription should please supporters of birth control access, right? Funny you should ask [Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason, earlier]
I’ve written often on the surreal world of “structuring” law, in which keeping bank deposits or withdrawals below a reporting threshold is a federal crime whether or not you are aware of the structuring law and whether or not the underlying money flow is for or from any illegal activity or intended to evade any law. Of particular interest, I’ve written about who can get away with structuring (Eliot Spitzer) and who can’t (you). The law, along with a separate charge of lying to federal investigators, appears to have tripped up former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Dennis (“Denny”) Hastert in what a federal indictment suggests were hush money payments over misconduct before he arrived in Congress. I’m quoted in Francine Kiefer’s coverage for the Christian Science Monitor. More commentary: Ken White, Popehat.
- Cato Book Forum tomorrow (Wednesday, May 13): Paul Mahoney, “Wasting a Crisis: Why Securities Regulation Fails” [register or watch online]
- “When The SEC Pays Your Lawyer For Informing On You, Is That A Good Thing?” [Daniel Fisher]
- “Unfortunately for the CFPB’s ideological imperative, Ballard Spahr concludes otherwise: ‘In fact, the study confirms that arbitration does benefit consumers.'” [Kevin Funnell]
- Which “established members of the business establishment” brought the AIG prosecution to Eliot Spitzer’s desk, and from what motives? [Ira Stoll]
- Dodd-Frank “say on pay” failed to slow rise in CEO compensation, and it would help to understand why [Marc Hodak vs. James Surowiecki]
- “One-Third of Americans Living Abroad Have Thought Actively About Renouncing Citizenship Due to Tax-Filing Requirements” [Matt Welch, followup, earlier on FATCA] Rand Paul bill would repeal the law, and there’s also a constitutional challenge in the works [TaxProf]
- “What’s the point of the implied covenant of good faith? Other than generating fees for lawyers?” [Prof. Bainbridge]
In New York that’s getting to be a regular pattern in the settlement of charges against financial firms; although Eliot Spitzer, known for creative methods of corporate decapitation, may have departed office, Spitzerism lives on. I explain in a new Cato post on the state’s Ocwen Financial pact.
Related: Tactics the federal government used to seize control of insurer American International Group (AIG) away from Hank Greenberg, now made public despite years spent resisting disclosure [Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times]
Next time someone says big money calls all the shots in American politics, remember that an 8-1 money advantage fueled by Michael Bloomberg and other national donors wasn’t enough to save the seats of two lawmakers who’d helped push a gun-control package through the Colorado Senate, thus infuriating constituents in a marginal Colorado Springs district and in the blue-collar Democratic stronghold of Pueblo. [Denver Post, David Kopel, Volokh Conspiracy, The Denver Channel]
Meanwhile, New York City Democratic primary voters decided against nominating whited sepulcher Eliot Spitzer as the city’s next comptroller, thus foiling Spitzer’s plan to get his hands on billions of pension fund dollars with which to engage in grandstanding and litigation [WABC, Lawrence Cunningham]
- Body cameras protect both police and the citizenry [Steve Chapman]
- “Federal Prosecutor Disciplined for Making False Statements” [John Steele, Legal Ethics Forum]
- “The more popular view is that the role of a jury is to deliver a guilty verdict when the government accuses someone of a crime” [Ken at Popehat]
- More on forfeiture following New Yorker piece [Steve Greenhut, ABA Journal, earlier]
- How feds went after maker of secret automotive compartments [Brendan Koerner, Wired, April; Amy Alkon] Held at gunpoint for half hour+: massive Texas SWAT raid on organic farm yields okra, no pot [Radley Balko] Mother Jones magazine is perfectly happy to cheer on Drug War lunacy when that affords a chance to bash big pharma [Cathy Reisenwitz, Thoughts on Liberty]
- “Law Enforcement Wants To Weaken Section 230: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” [websites’ immunity for content left by visitors; Popehat]
- Eliot Spitzer’s prosecutorial sins catalogued [Lawrence Cunningham]