On September 7, 2017, the credit bureau Equifax announced a giant security breach affecting the personal information of approximately 143 million US consumers, as well as thousands of consumers overseas. With numerous lawsuits piling up against the company and almost half of our nation’s population at a significant increased risk of identity theft, Americans are left wondering why this happened, how it could have been prevented, and what will become of Equifax and our credit reporting systems.
On October 2, 2017, the United States Supreme Court denied a petition to Emmette Magee (“Magee”), a blind man, who claimed that the vending machines violate Title III under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Coca-Cola vending machines, similar to other modern vending machines, are “self-service and fully automated machines that dispense bottles.” These machines also include credit and debit card processing, and payment from smartphones, but require the consumer to select a beverage using a number pad associated with the product in the vending machine. Magee, the petitioner, claimed that these vending machines lacked any meaningful accommodation for use by the blind, because the machines contained an “entirely visual interface.”
On May 18, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 2-1 to initiate the process of rolling back net neutrality provisions put in place by the Obama administration designed to keep the Internet open and fair. The FCC Chairman’s proposal will end the “utility-style strict regulatory approach that gives government control of the Internet.” The current FCC intends to implement market-based policies designed to preserve Internet freedom and reverse declining infrastructure investment, innovation, and options for consumers it argues resulted from the FCC’s actions in 2015.
Since its inception in 2010, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has garnered its fair share of criticism and controversy. The regulator was created by the Dodd-Frank legislation to curb the practices and risks, which brought about the financial crisis of 2007-2008. The CFPB is often criticized by the banks and firms it regulates, but now a fellow federal regulator is casting doubt on the CFPB’s new rule concerning mandatory arbitration clauses found in contracts for commonly used banking products, such as checking accounts and credit cards. The rule is also opposed by Congress, which is working on measures to repeal the rule, and several financial industry and lobbying groups who are suing the CFPB.
On May 30, 2017, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Impression Prods., Inc. v. Lexmark Int’l, Inc. finding 8-0 to disallow post-sale restrictions on goods, and 7-1 on the matter of international exhaustion. The Court’s holding reinforced the doctrine of international exhaustion for patents, finding that the first authorized sale exhausts the patent holder’s rights to block importation. In theory, one could now legally purchase pharmaceuticals overseas at cheaper prices and import them to the United States.
In a rare ruling on September 12, 2017, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) unanimously approved revisions to the Illinois Commerce Commission’s (ICC) proposed Part 412 Order. The ICC and members of the Alternative Retail Electric Suppliers (ARES) community negotiated the adopted compromise language. Part 412 of the Illinois Administrative Code, Title 83, Chapter 1, outlines the obligations of retail electric suppliers. Lobbyists for Retail Energy Supply Association (RESA) estimate that this compromise has been up to five years in the making.
Power plants generate a residue after burning coal called coal ash, more formally known as coal combustion residuals (CCRs). In October 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established national guidelines to address the environmental dangers and health risks of coal ash. In May, nearly two years after the rule regulating the disposal of CCRs from electric utilities came into effect, industry officials petitioned the EPA to reconsider the rule, claiming adverse effects.
Captive insurance companies, insurance companies owned by persons related to the insureds, have long served as an important risk management tool for businesses as varied as Sears and The New York Times. In recent years, there has been an explosion of “micro-captive” insurance companies, companies with premiums that do not exceed $1.2 million in a year. Until 2017, $1.2 million was the allowable maximum amount of premiums for an insurance company to elect favorable tax treatment under I.R.C. § 831(b), allowing the small insurance company to be taxed only on its investment income. The IRS believes that these “831(b)” micro-captives are often used as tax-shelters rather than for legitimate business purposes.
After Hurricane Irma’s dissipation on September 15, 2017, the residents of Florida can now begin to assess the damage caused by the strongest hurricane making landfall since Katrina in 2005. According to early estimates, Irma has caused over 62 billion dollars in damage. However, amongst the destruction there is a silver lining; the damage caused was significantly limited by building regulations that went into effect in 2002. Homes and buildings that would have otherwise been destroyed by Hurricane Irma were able to survive, and suffered only minor damage.
In the last month, multiple large-scale data breaches were reported by various entities, with 3 breaches reported in the past week alone. Unfortunately, even the most well-known entities do not stand a chance against increasing technological abilities of bad actors. Since the Equifax breach in early September, Whole Foods, Sonic, Deloitte and the Securities Exchange Commission, among others, had similar large-scale breaches affecting consumers across the country.