In July of 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) Director, Richard Cordray, implemented a rule regulating the ability of banks to prohibit class-action lawsuits from being placed within the fine print of their consumer contracts. By the end of July, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the rule under the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to overturn any recently issued regulation by an executive agency. The Senate subsequently voted to repeal the rule after a 50-51 vote, where Mike Pence cast his vote to break the 50-50 tie. On November 1st, 2017, President Trump signed the bill repealing the regulation.
On Friday, October 28, 2017, the National Highway Traffic-Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) announced they are striving to deregulate strict regulations currently slowing production on self-driving cars. NHTSA is seeking to deregulate in an attempt to increase the production and deployment of driverless cars. In the Rulemaking Report released by the Department of Transportation (“DOT”), NHTSA seeks comments to “identify any unnecessary regulatory barriers to Automated Safety Technologies, and for the testing and compliance certification of motor vehicles with unconventional automated vehicles designs, especially those equipped with controls instead of a human driver.”
On October 26, 2017, the United States government released files relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the investigation that followed. The majority of the documents generated by the investigation – about 88% of all FBI, CIA, and other agencies’ files – have been available for years, but the rest of the documents were due to be released this year. On the recommendation of the investigatory agencies, President Trump decided to keep some of this remaining information redacted due to “national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns.” Speculation as to the contents of these documents and the reasons for redacting secure information have renewed a continuing discussion about what information the public should be privy to and how this information can be accessed.
Google answered Amazon’s Echo Dot by recently launching their own pint-sized smart speaker, the Google Home Mini. Recently, Google was forced to disable one of the features on the Home Mini after it was discovered that a technical glitch led to near 24/7 audio recording. Google responded quickly and appropriately, investigating the cause and quickly releasing an update to disable the hardware responsible for the glitch. The Equifax hack – a breach of personal data including social security numbers, driver’s license information, and other credit details – exposed nearly half the country and waited months to respond. Upcoming European legislation that can significantly impact American companies with European Union clients may be part of the reason for their drastically different responses.
Illinois Public Act 100-0538, commonly referred to as House Bill 40, was signed into law on September 28, 2017. The Act repeals provisions in existing Illinois laws that aim to make abortion illegal should there be any change to the federal standard. Additionally, the Act lifts a ban on insurance coverage for abortions for low-income individuals enrolled in Medicaid. While enacting House Bill 40 was a win for advocates of reproductive rights in Illinois, the state will still need to comply with federal anti-abortion laws, such as the Hyde Amendment.
Many nations are increasingly attempting to regulate Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency. Increased regulation could help legitimize the currency, but uncertainties about what regulation lies ahead threatens the value of the currencies. A main driver of the increased value of cryptocurrencies is the potential for increased usage in markets globally and greater integration of them into our economy. Regulation may be essential to successfully enabling such integration, because with instability in trade and valuation of the currency it is hard for consumers to know whether they should be spending the currency, or if it will dramatically change in value over the course of a short time period.
In October 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) launched the Smart Sectors Program, a program that creates a collaborative partnership between the EPA and regulated sectors such as the automotive, agriculture, and mining industries. The program provides a platform for the EPA and regulated sectors to collectively develop approaches to protect the environment, public health, and the economy.
The IRS suspended its Automatic Substitute for Return (ASFR) Program for lack of resources, Tax Analysts and others report. The ASFR program has long provided an avenue for the IRS to assess taxes on delinquent filers after requests to file returns were ignored by having its computer system automatically calculate the tax due based on Forms 1099 and other information reports that had been filed with the IRS. The IRS could then assess the taxes and attempt to collect based on these substitute returns. However, since deductions were ignored, the tax amounts tended to be inflated, sometimes incredibly so, and significant IRS time was required to respond to contested assessments and collection efforts that were sometimes highly unrealistic.