Posts Tagged ‘Securities and Exchange Commission’

“Administrative Law Judges Are Unconstitutional”

Administrative law judges are executive-branch as distinct from judicial officers, yet the President has no power to remove them; at the Securities and Exchange Commission and many other federal agencies, they are themselves employed by the agency on whose enforcement cases they must render quasi-judicial rulings. In recent years federal judges have expressed unease about whether assigning ALJs this particular combination of adjudicatory powers and institutional affiliations is entirely consistent with the U.S. Constitution, and now a Cato Institute amicus brief, in the D.C. Circuit case of Timbervest LLC v. Securities and Exchange Commission, urges courts to take the next logical step and rule that it is not. [Ilya Shapiro and Thaya Brook Knight; earlier here, here, here here, etc.]

Banking and finance roundup

  • To keep your sex business free from the coils of federal regulation, your best bet might in fact be Ted Cruz, implacable opponent of Operation Choke Point [Elizabeth Nolan Brown; more from Snopes on rather silly attacks on Cruz for doing job lawyers are expected to do for clients in Texas case]
  • Snoopy, you’re not systematically important: judge frees MetLife from SIFI designation under Dodd-Frank [Thaya Brook Knight/Cato, John Cochrane]
  • What with Sen. Elizabeth Warren trying to put a lid on some companies’ criticism of the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, hope it’s still OK for the rest of us to talk about it [Thaya Brook Knight, Cato]
  • Sen. Warren isn’t only one using letters to SEC to browbeat businesses: New York City elected Public Advocate Letitia (“Tish”) James tries to hassle gunmaker Sturm Ruger to comply with various demands of gun control advocates [Manikandan Raman, Benzinga/Yahoo; more on Ms. James and her blames]
  • Next term Supreme Court will consider case on scope of insider trading law, Salman v. U.S. [Ira Stoll, more] “Returning to Common-Law Principles of Insider Trading After United States v. Newman” [Richard Epstein, Yale Law Journal on Second Circuit’s decision via Stoll]
  • DoJ cracks down on big-investor activism — at least when of a sort antitrust enforcers don’t like [Matt Levine]

A hold-up of SEC nominees

You mean getting to a floor vote so that sensitive vacancies can be filled isn’t these senators’ top priority after all? Sen. Chuck Schumer and allies are holding up two presidential nominations to the Securities and Exchange Commission, those of Democrat Lisa Fairfax and Republican Hester Peirce, demanding that the nominees commit to supporting a scheme to force shareholder-held companies to disclose their political involvements, the better for adversaries to pressure them or retaliate. It flies in the face of the idea that the appropriate frame of mind for commissioners approaching the rulemaking process is to keep an open mind rather than promise to vote one way or the other [Stephen Bainbridge, Broc Romanek/Corporate Counsel, Marc Hodak] “The SEC is now down to just three members, two less than its full complement, after two left the agency late last year. If the SEC remains with only three members for a prolonged period, it could be difficult for Chairman Mary Jo White to advance her agenda in what is likely her final year at the markets regulator.” [Andrew Ackerman, WSJ] More: WSJ letters via Prof. Bainbridge; Washington Post editorial.

Banking and finance roundup

  • Federal judge refuses to dismiss suit against prosecutor Preet Bharara, FBI agents by hedge funder David Ganek over treatment in now-dismissed Chiasson inside trading case [Peter Henning, New York Times “DealBook”; Business Insider] SEC agrees to return $21.5 million extracted from Ganek’s Level Global Investors [BNA via Ira Stoll]
  • CFPB follies: “Government-Directed Lending Comes to America” [Ike Brannon, Cato] Agency casts its eye on marketplace, otherwise known as peer-to-peer, lending [Thaya Brook Knight, Cato]
  • SEC inspector general sides with agency against allegations of undue sway over ALJs [Reuters, earlier here, here, etc.]
  • Third party liability for crime: “HSBC Sued Over Drug Cartel Murders After Laundering Probe” [Bloomberg]
  • Former Ally Bank CEO: administration extorted race-lending settlement by threatening to derail regulatory approvals [Paul Sperry/New York Post, more]
  • Bellevue, Wash.: $213,000 award to complainant Leticia Lucero “could mean other cases where homeowners argue lenders [cause] emotional distress during negotiations.” [AP/Yakima Herald]

Banking and finance roundup

Study: Dodd-Frank conflict minerals rule worsened Congo bloodshed

We’ve covered this story repeatedly, but now there’s further confirmation:

The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act increased violence in the Congo by 143 percent (and looting by 291 percent) through its “conflict minerals” rule, which has backfired on its intended beneficiaries. So concludes a new study by Dominic Parker of the University of Wisconsin and Bryan Vadheim of the London School of Economics.

As we noted earlier, Dodd-Frank conflict minerals regulations have also caused starvation in the Congo, harmed U.S. businesses, and resulted in increased smuggling—even as they punish peaceful neighboring countries in Africa just for being near the Congo, whose civil wars have killed millions over the last 20 years. They have inflicted great harm on a country that was just beginning to recover from years of mass killing and had the world’s lowest per capita income. The new study is consistent with a 2013 paper by St. Thomas University law professor Marcia Narine that criticized the conflict minerals rule for its dire consequences for the Congolese people.

That’s from Hans Bader’s write-up at CEI; more, Stephanie Slade, Reason. The Parker-Vadheim paper is here.

Banking and finance roundup

  • “But the questions of fairness are real and seem to be bolstered by the S.E.C.’s win/loss record in its home court versus its performance in district courts.” [Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times, earlier here, etc.]
  • With Greece as with subprime crisis, same regulators who messed up credit markets will probably ask for and get more power [Arnold Kling]
  • “In fact an AIG-and-taxpayer bailout of Wall Street firms engineered by government officials and Wall Street professionals with deep and ignored conflicts of interest” [Lawrence Cunningham, National Interest via Bainbridge]
  • CSR by way of SEC? “Disclosure Rules Are the Wrong Way to Push Social Change” [Thaya Knight, American Banker/Cato]
  • “Supreme Court Blasts Maryland Taxman’s Double-Dipping” [Elizabeth BeShears, Heartland on this year’s Supreme Court decision in Comptroller v. Wynne, I’m quoted]
  • Dodd-Frank: “Are State Regulators A Source of Systemic Risk?” [Mark Calabria, Cato]
  • Feds’ latest round of mega-settlements against banks prompts usual demands to jail execs. Is it really that simple? [Scott Greenfield]

Federal court: SEC cannot use employees as judges

The Securities and Exchange Commission practice of trying many complaints before administrative law judges (ALJs) who are its own employees, rather than before federal courts, has grown increasingly controversial lately and now one defendant’s challenge to the practice has prevailed — at least for the moment. A federal judge in Atlanta has ruled that because ALJs are “inferior officers” under the constitution, they cannot be simply employed like other federal workers by an agency like the SEC. Writes Thaya Knight at Cato, “there is a fairly easy fix available to the SEC: the five commissioners can simply appoint the existing ALJs to their current positions…. [but] other agencies could face greater difficulties.” But Daniel Fisher quotes Prof. Philip Hamburger as saying the ruling could still prove “profoundly important,” leading to the unraveling of other aspects of administrative law arrangements within agencies. More: W$J (commission fighting off at least seven legal challenges; in one instance it “asked one of its own judges to submit a formal statement about whether he has ever felt pressure to favor the agency”), Adam Zimmerman/PrawfsBlawg.

Banking and finance roundup

  • “FATCA: An American Tax Nightmare” [Stu Haugen, New York Times via TaxProf]
  • Following Iceland’s model? “Neither [Krugman nor Yglesias] mentions that a major part of the Icelandic recipe was letting *foreign* deposit holders twist in the wind.” [Tyler Cowen]
  • Wasting a Crisis: Why Securities Regulation Fails, new book by Virginia law dean Paul Mahoney [Thaya Knight, Cato, with video of Cato event]
  • Seventh Circuit reverses $2.46 billion judgment against HSBC Holdings in Household International case [Reuters/Business Insider]
  • “I’ve been with them 40 years and then they have this? It’s a pain.” Banks close longtime local accounts as anti-money-laundering rules squeeze economy in border town Nogales, Ariz. [W$J]
  • Six regulatory agencies issue diversity guidelines for financial institutions, implementing Dodd-Frank mandate [FDIC]
  • Judge to Labaton Sucharow, Bernstein Litowitz: you might at least want to talk to those “confidential informants” your case relies on [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]