Finance & Banking
Despite last-ditch efforts by lobbyists for the crypto community, controversial new cryptocurrency tax requirements buried in the massive bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the US Senate in early August will likely remain unaltered by the House which has committed to vote on the $1 trillion dollar bill by September 27, 2021. The new reporting rules are sending ripples of concern through the cryptocurrency industry and even have some national-security officials worried that their breadth and overreach will only succeed in pushing illicit activities and actors further underground. Overly aggressive regulations risk forcing illegal activity “deeper into anonymizing methods and corners of the internet that would make it more difficult for law enforcement,” according to Jeremy Sheridan, assistant director of the U.S. Secret Service’s investigations office. Moreover, overregulation could also have a chilling effect on domestic innovation and result in the U.S. falling behind other countries that adopt laws and regulations that are more favorable to new technologies. “The U.S. has to make a decision if it wants to be a center of. . . transformational technology that can bring more people into the financial ecosystem. . . [or] get left behind,” said Sigal Mandelker, a former undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence in the Treasury Department. Mandelker is now with a private venture capital firm which invests in the crypto markets.
As Coronavirus (Covid-19) has slowed the global economy, business owners have been forced to adapt to volatile market conditions and use creativity to raise capital. Investors and financial industry professionals have turned their attention to Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs), which have already raised nearly $100 billion in 2021 compared to $83.4 billion during the previous year. A SPAC is a publicly-traded shell company formed by industry professionals such as institutional investors, private equity firms, and hedge funds. Then, SPAC sponsors will seek to complete a merger or acquisition with another private company, which enables the private company to become publicly traded and bypass the initial public offering (IPO) stage. SPACs usually are allowed two years from the IPO date to formalize an acquisition or return the funds to investors.
Cryptocurrencies have often been associated with illegal activities due to the fact that they allow users to remain relatively anonymous. This anonymity is possible because, when transacting with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, you can see where funds are being sent but not who sent or received them. However, there are signs that the use of crypto for unlawful purposes may be falling with illicit activity accounting for just 0.34% of all crypto transactions last year – down from roughly 2% a year earlier. Despite this improvement, cryptocurrency regulation appears to remain a top priority for federal lawmakers. One such example of this is the proposal of an anti-money laundering rule which would require people who hold their cryptocurrency in a private digital wallet to undergo identity checks if they make transactions of $3,000 or more. But Congress does not appear to be stopping there. As cryptocurrencies surged in value in recent days, lawmakers jumped to introduce two new bills aimed at advancing regulation of these precarious digital assets.
Chicago has a number of nicknames and “Derivatives Capital of the World” is one of them, as the city is home to CME Group and CBOE, two major U.S. exchange operators. The city risked this title in 2020 with the push for the LaSalle Street Tax, a financial transaction tax (“FTT”) that would impose a tax on trades made by Chicago exchanges. This tax was an attempt to fill the city’s billion dollar 2021 budget shortfall, but failed in large part because the evolution of trading has made these operators incredibly mobile. In a Chicago City Council meeting, Terry Duffy, CEO of CME Group, made it clear the imposition of the LaSalle Street Tax wouldn’t result in more revenue for the city, but a great deal of empty office space instead. For now, the LaSalle Street Tax is off the table in Chicago, but other governments, like New Jersey, are considering similar taxes. States considering FTTs ought to look at the pushback in Chicago and understand that mobility is the inevitable defense to such a tax.
Last week, the finance industry watched one of the biggest implosions of an investment firm since the 2008 financial crisis. Archegos Capital Management rocked the industry when it was forced to liquidate huge positions in blue-chip companies after some risky investment strategies went south. The financial instruments used in this risky investment strategy are called total return swaps. The Archegos meltdown has lead lawmakers and regulators to call for increased scrutiny of the swaps.
In the last days of the Trump administration, the Trump Department of Labor (“DOL”) finalized a rule that made it more difficult for socially conscious investments to be included in retirement plans. The Trump-era rule discouraged employer 401(k) and other retirement plans from offering funds from managers that consider Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) factors over investment returns or risk in their due diligence. Despite this, ESG funds continue to gain in popularity, and the new Biden administration has stated that it will not enforce the Trump-era rule as it considers reversing it.
On June 25, 2019, Governor Pritzker signed the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, legalizing cannabis for adult use in Illinois. Cannabis is the most lucrative crop globally and the cash-making abilities of cannabis have been proven true in Illinois. Sales in the state exceeded $1 billion in the first full year of legalization, resulting in a $205.4 million tax windfall for Illinois. This success, however, is no small feat for cannabis companies considering the banking and insurance obstacles they must overcome to start this type of business. Federalism is at the heart of many of these hurdles.
In February 2021, McKinsey and Company’s 650 global partners turned down Kevin Sneader’s bid for a second three-year term as the firm’s lead partner. The rejection marked the first time in 40 years the storied consulting firm has opted not to offer its leader a second term. The vote came as McKinsey struggles to reconcile its lucrative business model with a series of ethical lapses that have been widely reported in the press, litigated in the courts, and questioned by some of the firm’s next generation of leaders.
Cora Leeuwenburg Associate Editor Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, JD 2022 The controversy surrounding the unprecedented movement by retail investors and Gamestop has not died down in the last month following the stock’s meteoric rise in price and dramatic fall. The wildly volatile stock has lost hedge funds millions and resulted in …
For me, it started with a phone call. Normally I do not answer calls from unknown numbers. But that day I did. The woman on the other end of the line informed me that she was calling on behalf of a debt collection agency. Sensing my confusion, she explained, “We’ve been trying to reach you regarding your outstanding balance with Sprint.” That did not make sense, I insisted. I had never been a Sprint customer in my life. After a brief pause, she asked, “Have you ever been the victim of identity theft?”