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.
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.
Landlords have a duty to know the laws applicable to their properties, in all matters great and small. While security deposits may seem on the “smaller” end of a landlord’s duties, he or she must remain compliant with all state and local municipal laws—even when handling security deposits. Whether a large or small residential unit landlord in the City of Chicago, a violation of the state and municipal security deposit laws can have a catastrophic domino effect, resulting in lost revenue, penalties, and lawsuits. In fact, some landlords have had to shell out six-figure settlements and file for bankruptcy as a result of violating the laws surrounding security deposits.
Since its inception, compliance with the UN’s rules and regulations has been contentious for nations and individuals alike. Perhaps most prominent are the Security Council and the International Court of Justice, known internationally as sources of law for the maintenance of international peace and security. In theory, bodies like the Security Council and the International Court of Justice may presume member states’ compliance with their rules and regulations. Yet often the presumption of compliance is just that—in an effort to maintain its status as a peaceful international entity, the UN has limited enforcement power. The result is body of agreement, and not much else.
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.
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.
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.